The first-place Calgary Flames may have looked at this week’s stretch of games against Northwest Division rivals as a perfect opportunity to pad their lead.
They saw it shrink, however, their last time out.
The Flames look to avoid losing their second straight game to a team chasing them in the standings Thursday night when they visit the Minnesota Wild.
After defeating Phoenix 7-5 on Saturday to win for the third time in four games, Calgary (33-18-6) began its stretch against Northwest foes with a 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver on Tuesday.
The Flames took a 3-2 lead at 6:52 of the third on Rene Bourque’s 20th goal, but the Canucks tied it with 51 seconds remaining in regulation. Calgary still picked up a point in its fifth straight game (3-0-2), but allowed second-place Vancouver to pull within eight.
After facing Minnesota (28-24-3), which is 13 points out of first, the Flames visit third-place Edmonton on Saturday. The Oilers are 10 points behind Calgary.
“We have three divisional games all in a row here,” said Bourque, who has three goals and four assists during a season-high five-game point streak. “We’re trying to increase are point total before the playoffs so nobody can catch us.”
The Flames have won their first two games against Minnesota this season - both in overtime - and seven of the last eight meetings.
Miikka Kiprusoff has posted a 1.45 goals-against average in winning both games against the Wild to continue his dominance over them. He is 19-5-2 with a 1.86 GAA and three shutouts since 2005-06, and his 21 career victories over Minnesota are his most against any opponent.
Kiprusoff was spectacular Tuesday, but was denied his league-leading 34th victory.
He finished with a season-high 40 saves, his best coming on a Canucks power-play with less than 10 minutes remaining. Seemingly out of position, Kiprusoff dove across and knocked Kyle Wellwood’s shot out of the air with the paddle of his stick, denying a sure goal.
“Probably the save of the year,” Bourque said.
Meanwhile, captain Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist to give him 823 career points (395 goals, 428 assists). He moved past Al MacInnis into second place on the Flames career scoring list and is within seven of leader Theoren Fleury. Iginla is without a point versus the Wild this season.
Minnesota hasn’t played since Saturday’s disappointing 5-3 loss to Ottawa.
The Wild took a 3-0 lead just over 13 minutes into the game, but lost at home for the first time in franchise history when leading by three goals.
“It was the toughest loss of the season so far,” defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron said.
The Wild, suddenly vulnerable on defense, have allowed nine goals in losing their last two games after yielding six in their previous four contests.
Niklas Backstrom stopped 16 shots against Ottawa and was pulled for Josh Harding after allowing three goals in the final 7 1/2 minutes of the second period. Backstrom, who was 4-1-0 with a 1.38 GAA in his previous five home starts, is 3-1-3 with a 1.64 GAA and one shutout in eight career home starts against the Flames.
Owen Nolan scored twice, giving him five goals and six assists in his last nine games. Nolan, second on the Wild with 15 goals despite playing in only 35 games, missed both contests against the Flames this season with a right leg injury.
Nolan had 16 goals in 77 games with Calgary last season.