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Avalanche help slim post-season chances with win over Flames

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The Canadian Press
3/31/2012 1:04:17 AM
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CALGARY -- The Colorado Avalanche did what they needed to do Friday night against the Calgary Flames.

Heading into a stretch of five days off, now all they can do is wait and hope.

Semyon Varlamov made 38 saves to backstop the Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over Calgary, keeping their own slim playoff hopes alive and virtually extinguishing the Flames' chances to make the post-season.

"I'm not one of those guys that sits at home and watches Sports Center all day. I'll leave that up to the other guys and just do my own thing, get my rest, and get my mind off hockey a little bit," said Gabriel Landeskog, who had two assists to move past New Jersey's Adam Henrique and into first place in the NHL rookie scoring race.

"But it will definitely be a little nerve wracking for sure."

Colorado is 10th in the Western Conference with 88 points. They're even in points with ninth place San Jose but have only two games left compared to the Sharks, who have four to play. Dallas and Phoenix are both at 89 points with four games each left to play.

"We've kept our hopes alive. We've got five days off now until our next game. We're just going to have to wait and see what happens," said Colorado coach Joe Sacco, whose team is the youngest in the NHL. "Certainly our young group has played hard all year and I think we deserve to be in this position that we're in down the stretch."

Mark Olver, David Jones, Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller into an empty net scored for Colorado (41-33-6), which snapped a four-game winless slide. The Avalanche wrap up the season with home games against Columbus and Nashville.

Jarome Iginla on a power play with 38 seconds left in the game, scored the lone goal for Calgary (35-29-15). The Flames, who have three games remaining, fall three points behind Colorado and could be mathematically eliminated as soon as Saturday night when they play in Vancouver.

Calgary is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a third straight season and 10th time in the past 15 years.

"A lot of us in this room have been in this situation before and it's a tough, tough feeling. It's going to take something pretty special now to get in," said Giordano. "For our pride as players in here, we have to get back on the ice tomorrow and show emotion and play a hard game. You can't just give up."

Varlamov's best stops came in the first period, just prior to when Colorado scored its first two goals. Seconds before Olver opened the scoring, the 23-year-old stopped Curtis Glencross' one-timer from the side of the net.

Just prior to Jones' goal that made it 2-0, Varlamov denied Mike Cammalleri from the slot.

"I got so much my confidence after the team scored a couple goals. When you're leading and score first, your confidence gets better and better," Varlamov said.

After a five-game winning streak in early March got the Flames into the top eight for the first time all year, they could not sustain it, going 1-4-3 in eight games since.

During their late season struggles, the Flames' offence has disappeared, scoring just 12 goals during that stretch -- five coming in their only win, 5-4 over Dallas. Iginla's last-minute goal snapped a shutout stretch on home ice of 139:50, which dated back to the Stars game.

"In the last eight games, that's probably been the worst defensive games I've seen this team play all year and that's why our offence has struggled," said Flames coach Brent Sutter. "You can't score seven goals in seven games when you're having 20-some goals scored against you. It doesn't work."

Calgary has been plagued by inconsistency in their play all season -- the latest downward spiral began with consecutive losses to Edmonton and Columbus, the two bottom ranked teams in the league.

"It's a cliche saying but it's so true. A good defence is still and always will be your best offence. That's just the way it was. The best teams have it. They defend well and they have the puck more," said Sutter. "Tonight, we were turning pucks over, giveaways in our own zone, we weren't moving our feet, our battle level wasn't where we needed it to be."

With Calgary's 3-0 loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday night having dashed any realistic hopes of making the playoffs, the Scotiabank Saddledome sell-out crowd of 19,289 was noticeably subdued when the game began. They grew even quieter when Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester accidentally swept the puck into his own net at 3:21.

"You can down a couple early, at this time of year, and you saw how the game went. They blocked a lot of shots and played well defensively. I thought we generated some chances but for whatever reason, we didn't score," Giordano said.

Regardless of their situation come Thursday night when they return to action, Landeskog says the Avalanche will only get better.

"We have a bright future," said Landeskog. "We have a great group of guys in here, we're really upbeat and positive for the next couple years, regardless of what happens this year."

Notes: Calgary D Cory Sarich (upper body) returned to the line-up after missing four games. ... Colorado won the last two meetings of the season series after losing the first four. ... Colorado LW Jamie McGinn (back) did not play. Taking his spot was former Flame Chuck Kobasew. ... Colorado did not get a power play all game, the seventh time that's happened this season.

Varlamov stops Jones  (Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
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