Sutter inspires Flames to raise the bar

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:50 PM ET

Brent Sutter should write a book.

Whatever the head coach said and did Friday morning behind closed doors at the Westside Recreation Centre sure seemed to inspire the Flames.

A lengthy meeting that cut well into a planned practice turned a listless and lazy batch of veterans into a motivated, hard-working team that showed it's willing to sacrifice to score goals, play strong defence, and earn a victory.

Resulting in a 5-3 victory over an Edmonton Oilers club that was thoroughly outworked and outchanced over 60 minutes but still somehow managed to take a lead on three separate occasions, the Flames have raised the bar early this season and shown what they're capable of.

"We wanted to be more physical, more gritty. I thought we had a good energy. We were skating and competed harder," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said after the victory.

"That's one to build on."

Now the question is whether or not they can maintain that motivation over the coming days, weeks and months.

They fired 46 shots on goal, earned decisions in 71% of their faceoff battles (going 45-18 in the circles), played hard and physically for the better part of all three periods.

Not only did their top lines provide the offence they need, but the third and fourth threesomes provided valuable minutes both during five-on-five action and while shorthanded.

The Flames killed off all four Oilers powerplays and scored on one of their own man-advantage opportunities.

Breakdowns came. Giveaways led to a couple of the goals and bad luck contributed as well -- Dustin Penner's go-ahead goal 22 ticks into the second period went in off defenceman Ian White's face -- but the Flames easily played their most well-rounded game in recent memory.

They were invested.

Part of that may be due to the commitment they made to each other in the Westside Rec dressing room after Sutter and his coaching staff stressed what the team has to do to succeed.

The result on the ice may inspire them to follow that same path more often in the future, without the same burden they felt before proving they could play that way.

"I think it's gonna let us be a bit looser," said winger Alex Tanguay. "Being able to win a game where we were down after two periods and play the way we have, it's gonna help our confidence."

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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