SUN Hockey Pool

Powerful belief upends 'Hawks

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

CALGARY - That hint of a grin Brent Sutter flashed during Saturday's shootout loss broadened to a full-fledged smile late last night.

With good reason.

Some of it had to do with the fact his team had just capped the most improbable of six-week runs to hit the hay in eighth place in the NHL's Western Conference -a shocking two points short of fourth place.

A bit of it had to do with the fact his club's latest victim, the Chicago Blackhawks, had previously feasted on the Flames to the tune of nine wins in their last 10 meetings before last night.

But perhaps most of all, that smile revolved around the fact his club continues to win games by way of a formula nobody can quite put their finger on due to the unpredictable nature of its heroes.

"We're a hard-working team that's been resilient and has been finding different ways to have success," explained the Flames head coach when asked how his team has managed to piece together the NHL's best record since Christmas. "Someone different is finding a way to step up every night."

Last night, in a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks, it was the penalty killers' turn.

Facing off against the league's most potent powerplay, the Flames not only shut down the Blackhawks on all four man-advantages, they used each one to generate the only crowd noise of the night, not to mention a handful of glorious scoring chances.

"I definitely would say that our penalty killing won the game for us," said Flames' Curtis Glencross, the game's first star not only because of his late game-winner but because of inspired penalty killing. "We've been really good on the penalty kill lately. We're paying the price and blocking more shots. And when the first-ranked powerplay in the league comes in and we shut them down, it's pretty big."

Huge actually.

Starting with one of two questionable calls against Cory Sarich, the Flames used their penalty-kill units to not only blank one of the most fearsome fivesomes the league has to offer but to bolster their energy in a tight tilt.

They stole the show all night at both ends of the ice.

"We had a few chances, and with (Patrick) Sharp on the point, you want to take advantage, so when you've got a chance to go, you have to take it and give your defencemen a chance to relax a bit," Moss said. "It gives the guys on the bench a lift to see the boys kill them off."

With his team getting just five shots through during eight minutes of powerplay time, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville admitted his club lost the game via special teams.

"We didn't really didn't have many quality chances and didn't generate a lot of on our powerplay and probably lost some of the momentum in the game as well," said Quenneville, whose defending champs entered the game a shocking point behind Calgary. "They did a good job killing, and that was a factor."

They did a phenomenal job -- something the Flames have been doing without fanfare since Christmas.

The difference being last night they got top billing in the win -- yet another different way to win a game for a team that sits 27-21-7.

"Hey, the other night we get a big powerplay goal late to tie the game and find a way to get a point," Sutter said. "That didn't happen two months ago."

A lot of things didn't happen here two months ago.

Including Sutter's smile.

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Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on The Hotstove on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada

twitter.com/ericfrancis


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