CALGARY, Alberta (AP)—Peering outside at the blizzard conditions Saturday morning, the Calgary Flames must have thought it was December again.
“Feels like Christmas, doesn’t it?” Alex Tanguay said after practice as he prepared to head out into the 4-6 inches of snow.
What a gift it would be for the Flames to recapture their form from December, when they lost just once in 17 games, going 12-1-4. They’d settle for a win Sunday night, when they’ll try to avoid elimination by San Jose in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.
Since 1993, the Flames have won just once in eight elimination games.
In this series, Calgary turned a fast start into victory in Game 1, and stormed back from three goals down to win Game 3. In Game 4, however, they squandered a 2-1 lead in the final five minutes.
One loss away from a third straight first-round exit, the Flames know what’s at stake.
“We have to play well, that’s the bottom line,” Tanguay said. “Some guys will play five minutes and some guys will play 25 minutes, but you have to make sure they’re your best.”
The Flames could use another big game from Game 3 star Owen Nolan. During the regular season, Nolan scored 11 goals at home and was a plus-11 compared to the five goals and minus-5 he was on the road. In the playoffs, Nolan’s goal and two assists have all come at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“We realize we’re down in the series but we’re still a confident group,” Nolan said. “We feel we can win this series. We just have to come out, be ready to work, play physical and the game will take care of itself.”
Since mid-January, all five times the Flames have lost two straight, they rebounded with a victory.
“It’s resolve and resilience,” Flames coach Mike Keenan said. “If you go through the experiences of playing in playoff hockey and if you’ve had the experience of long cup runs, you always are faced with hurdles that you have to either overcome or you’re going to go home.”
Winning two games in a row from San Jose will be no easy feat, considering— with the exception of the final weekend of the regular season when the Sharks lost back-to-back meaningless games—a five-game winless streak in mid-February was the last time the Sharks lost consecutive games.
“Throughout the course of the year,” Tanguay said, “we’ve played our best games when we had to play them, when we needed to be at our best, and tomorrow that’s definitely going to be the case.”