CALGARY – The Calgary Flames were determined to find a way to turn their rough November around, no matter how hard Peter Budaj made it for them.
The Flames overcame a stubborn 47-save performance by Budaj and earned a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. Calgary (10-8-1) needed the victory to start salvaging what’s been a November to forget. The Flames are now 4-5 this month and had lost five of their last seven heading into the Tuesday’s game, including an embarrassing 6-1 defeat in San Jose last week.
“It was big on so many levels just because of the way we’ve played our last few games,” said defenceman Adrian Aucoin, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third period.
“Goals-against have been killing us, penalties have been killing us. We stayed out of the box and played good defence and we put a lot of pucks on net with a lot of traffic, which is something we haven’t been doing enough of. It was exactly what we needed.”
It looked Budaj was going to steal the game in a big way until Aucoin lasered a slapshot over the Slovak’s right glove at 12:28 of the third to put Calgary up 2-1.
Jarome Iginla scored an empty-netter and David Moss rubbed salt in the wound with a power-play goal with six seconds remaining. Rene Bourque also scored and Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves for the victory.
Marek Svatos replied for the Avalanche (8-9-1), whose winning streak ended at three. The Avs head home from this their three-game road swing 2-1 with shootout victories in Vancouver and Edmonton.
Budaj shouldered the workload for Colorado on Tuesday and made several pad saves from close range.
“I think their coach said to throw everything at the net,” Budaj said. “They’re a big, physical team and they put the puck in the corner and crash the net.
“We didn’t win the battle along the walls and that’s why they had a lot of shots.”
Aucoin said he and his teammates knew they just had to keep the pressure on Budaj.
“Our game plan was pretty much knowing he’s won some games for them that way and we knew he was going to make big saves,” Aucoin said. “It’s not the old Colorado where they have tons of offence. They play a hard defensive game and we just had to make our own opportunities and we knew it wasn’t going to be right away.
“Sooner or later it was going to happen because our forwards did such a great job.”
The Avs were without captain Joe Sakic (back) for a fourth straight game and the team hopes he’ll be able to play Thursday when Colorado hosts Calgary.
Calgary’s power play was cold Tuesday with zero goals on seven chances until Moss scored with Ryan Smyth in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Flames served only two minors penalties in the game. They were the more rested team with four days off following the San Jose debacle. Calgary had spent that time shoring up their defensive coverage.
“You could tell guys were fresher, our system was a little smarter and mentally we were rested which made a big difference,” Aucoin said. “We played the way we wanted to and so many nights you want to play the right way, but it’s not that easy, but tonight we made it look a little easier.”
The Flames opened the third period with a two-man advantage, but couldn’t muster a goal. Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk were slapped with hooking and tripping penalties at the end of the second period.
The Flames outshot the Avs 32-15 after two periods, but the game was deadlocked due to the work of Budaj.
Calgary evened the score at 6:52 of the second period. A sprawling Mike Cammalleri managed to bank the puck across the goal-mouth to Bourque, who scored top shelf with a sharp-angled shot for his fourth of the season.
Colorado posted 1-0 lead at 6:48 of the first period. T.J. Hensick backhanded the puck from behind the goal-line out to an unchecked Svatos, who beat Kiprusoff over his right shoulder.
Calgary was scoreless on back-to-back power plays midway through the first period. The Flames had the lion’s share of puck possession in the opening 20 minutes and cycled it through the offensive zone, but they couldn’t solve Budaj despite a 13-8 edge in shots.
Notes(at) – Calgary is 3-0 versus the Avalanche this season . . . In addition to Sakic, Colorado was also without forward Ben Guite (ribs) . . . Forward Matthew Lombardi (shoulder) and defenceman Jim Vandermeer (ankle) were Calgary’s scratches.