Huge win fans the Flames
WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|Flames forward Jarome Iginla takes a shot during the Flames' skills competition at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Feb. 12, 2012. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - High on the wall in the Calgary Flames’ locker-room, big, black, block letters serve as a constant reminder that “Every game matters.”
If you had a dime for every time bench boss Brent Sutter has uttered the phrase “Every game is a big game,” you could purchase a lower-bowl ticket for the next home contest.
The mantra won’t change, but you get the feeling Saturday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks at the Saddledome — and the way it ended — was of increased importance to the Flames.
“It was a big one for us,” said gritty winger Tom Kostopolous in the aftermath of Saturday’s win. “It took everyone. If one guy didn’t have a good game, we might have lost that one. I thought everyone played well. I thought everyone contributed. It was a good team win.
“It’s a really good feeling.”
A feeling you might not get from just another victory.
Sure, Saturday’s win over the Northwest Division-leading Canucks counts for two points — just like the rest of ’em — but this seems like the type of triumph that can create plenty of positive momentum for a team.
It was, after all, against an arch-rival, arguably the Flames’ most fierce adversary in recent years.
It was, after all, against a team that’s touted among the Stanley Cup frontrunners.
It was, after all, against a group that — if the Flames manage to sneak into the spring dance — could be waiting as a first-round playoff opponent.
And yeah, those two points will certainly come in handy in what promises to be another right-down-to-the-wire race in the NHL’s Western Conference.
“It’s amazing how different it feels when you win a shootout (as opposed) to when you lose a shootout,” captain Jarome Iginla said after Saturday’s game. “It’s close to a coin toss. It’s, obviously, an important point, but it’s more than that. It’s amazing the different feel and what you can carry over from those.”
It’ll be all business again as the team prepares for Tuesday’s tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960), but the Flames had good reason to be wearing smiles when they arrived for Sunday’s Danone Superskills Competition at the Saddledome.
They might’ve even spent a bit of time celebrating Saturday’s hard-fought victory over the Canucks, something accuracy-shooting winner Krys Kolanos was likely alluding to when he joked “Team White must have gotten lots of sleep last night.”
When the Flames hit the ice for Sunday’s annual showoff session, they were tied for ninth in the Western Conference standings, just two points out of the eighth and final post-season slot, which currently belongs to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Even better, the Flames were just five points back of the free-falling Chicago Blackhawks in sixth and three points behind the suddenly-snakebitten Los Angeles Kings in seventh.
This is the time of year the playoff hopefuls start to pay closer attention to the out-of-town scoreboard, and you can bet the Flames — even with several key contributors on the injured reserve list — grabbed the attention of foes just ahead of the them in the standings with Saturday’s gutsy effort against the Canucks.
“After every win, it feels good, especially now when you count every point and you’re tying to make playoffs,” said Flames rookie centre Roman Horak. “It felt great after we won. It was Vancouver, right? They’re one of the best teams in the NHL, so it was special.”
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