Wild-Flames: Calgary Edges Minnesota
The Flames entered Tuesday night's game with a two-game winning streak and wished to continue that progress against the surging Minnesota Wild, who entered the night atop the division, a single point above the Flames and Avalanche.
With an Avalanche loss and Flames win, the Flames would be in sole possession of first going into the all-star break with only a single extra game played. As they entered the third period, assistant coach Rich Preston informed the players that the Avalanche had fell to the Predators in a decisive 4-0 loss, so the stage was set for them to overtake the division if they so chose.
The Flames edged the Wild 2-1 in a decisive win and reclaimed the first spot in the Northwest Division. The night proved to be a nail-biting crunch, as even though the Flames outshot their opponents 37-24, the game proved to be very tight with sharp goaltending from both ends of the rink.
Miikka Kiprusoff was tested early with a 2 on 1 chance as Brian Rolston one-timed a signature slapper from just across the blue that beat Kiprusoff within the first 4 minutes of the game.
However, it was all the Flames from there on as they poured their rivals shot after shot. After the first period, the Wild managed to squeak into their dressing rooms with their single tally. However, early in the second the Flames took over and managed to tie up the game. A nifty play by Lombardi got the Wild defensemen chasing him as he passed the puck from behind the net to a somewhat open Yelle, who roofed his second in as many nights.
The Flames managed to dominate the physical play as well, such as Warrener's roughing on Koivu, and Phaneuf's message sent to netminder Harding as he single-handedly broke two separate panels of glass behind the Wild's net right over the netminder's head. Both came in the first period, and the second from the Flames' blueline over 120 feet away.
After the Flames entered the third, they completed the comeback with a dazzling play from Craig Conroy. He entered the zone after Nolan managed to keep control of the puck and handed it to Conroy in front of the net as he entered highly unchallenged, resulting in a backhanded goal gloveside of Harding.
Were it not for the efforts of Harding, the Wild would not have survived the game. They came close in the third to forcing an extra period with a barrage of shots where Kiprusoff stood his ground.
With less than three minutes left to play, the guests seemed to beat Kiprusoff with a wrister from the blue. It hit the far post, straddled on the goal line, then hit the other post and came out to the Flames' netminder's glove. As the final period ended, the Wild lost their first in 16 previous outings after allowing 2 or less goals.
The Flames will now embark on a weeklong All-Star break rest. It is one that is well deserved, and will give the team a chance to reenergize themselves for this final push that will be a long, hard battle into the playoffs.
Iginla and Phaneuf will represent the team on the weekend, and Joseph may start to see some playing time come February.
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