Flames lose rally race

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- A million dollars was on the line during the first intermission last night.

Bags marked with big green dollar signs were hauled onto the ice in a Chevy pickup truck for the challenge and the crowd at GM Place cheered loud and enthusiastically.

The guy fell a puck short in his attempt. Then the Calgary Flames fell just short in their effort to jump into first place in the division, losing their second straight game to their rival Vancouver Canucks 6-5 in a back-and-forth clash that needed overtime to decide the outcome.

Twice, the Flames were down by two goals and twice they came back to tie it. They grabbed the lead for the first time on Daymond Langkow's marker with less than five minutes left and were hoping that would hold up.

"We thought we battled hard enough to get the win," said defenceman Rhett Warrener. "When you go up with five minutes left, you've got to get the two points. It doesn't matter what happened the other 55 minutes."

Langkow also expressed disappointment over the missed opportunity after Ryan Kesler tied the game a minute after the Flames centre scored.

"It's a tough loss," said Langkow. "With four minutes left we've got the lead, we've got to find a way to close the deal."

Warrener said at least Flames fans should have been entertained.

"I hope the fans were into it," he said. "It was one of those games, it was never over."

The Flames were itching to improve on their 5-10-3 road record last night. Just a single point separated them from three teams atop the ridiculously compressed Northwest Division and both Minnesota and Colorado lost earlier in the evening, allowing last night's winner to jump into first place. The loser joined a four-way tie for second spot.

The Flames were embarrassed 3-1 by those same Canucks a night before in the first half of the home-and-home series. At the Saddledome, no less, where the Flames had won a franchise record 10-straight contests.

But it was the Canucks who leapfrogged from 11th to third in the Western Conference standings on Sami Salo's blast in extra time when it changed direction on Miikka Kiprusoff and slipped past the Flames netminder.

Down by a pair after a dismal first period, Byron Ritchie gave the Flames life with his snipe from the right side past Roberto Luongo's blocker nine minutes into the second.

Just 65 seconds later, Calgary drew even with a powerplay goal from Kristian Huselius.

The determined Swede, who was moved up to the top line during the contest, struck again in the opening minute of the third period with a solo effort worthy of multiple replays. He slipped in untouched on the left wing and patiently waited for Luongo to make a move. As the Canucks netminder crouched anticipating a pass out front, Huselius lifted the puck over his shoulder.

Before the Canucks knew what hit them, rookie David Moss put a loose puck in the slot past Luongo to pull even for a second time. It was his third goal in as many NHL games -- a day before his 23rd birthday, to boot.

"We worked hard but couldn't really get the bounces, had to battle for every inch out there," said Huselius.

"We showed a lot of character there to come back."


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