CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -The Calgary Flames are right back in contention in the Western Conference playoff race.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 29 saves and the Flames beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 on Wednesday night to move within two points of eighth-place Colorado for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Flames, winners of their last five home games, will face the Avalanche on Friday night in Denver.
``It's going to be the biggest game of the year,' Calgary forward Rene Bourque said. ``They've been struggling so they're definitely going to be ready for us, but we've played well there this year. This is the time of the year everyone wants to play hockey and this is when the best players have to be your best players.'
Bourque opened the scoring for Calgary with his 25th goal of the season, beating Jason LaBarbera on a power play in the second period. Ales Kotalik made it 2-0 early in the third, and Lee Stempniak scored for Phoenix with 6:52 left.
Things looked bleak for the Flames on Saturday after a 5-0 drubbing in Boston left them six points beind the Avalanche.
``We're definitely in a better position now than we were on the weekend,' Bourque said. ``It's funny how it works, two games ago, we're six points out and four days later, we're right there within one game of tying them. We got a little help tonight and we're going to continue to need it.'
Colorado holds a game in hand and would have the benefit of the tiebreaker (most wins) between the two teams.
``Nothing is over until it's over,' Kotalik said. ``Right now we're in a pretty good position, we got a little help today, and it feels good to go into Colorado and hopefully we can come up with a big effort.'
LaBarbera also finished with 29 saves. The Coyotes have one victory in their last five games after winning nine games in a row.
``They're a team that wants to play with emotion. They were a desperate team tonight and they played well,' said the Coyotes' Matthew Lombardi, a former Flames player. ``We came pretty strong, but those guys played well. Kiprusoff made some big saves. We just missed a little bit of finish out there.'
Bourque's goal was the first power-play score surrendered by Phoenix in six games.
With Mathieu Schneider in the penalty box, Ian White pinched in at the blue line and fired the puck toward the net that deflected in off Bourque's skate.
Kotalik made it 2-0, snapping a shot inside the goal post on a nice set up pass from the sideboards by Mikael Backlund.
Stempniak matched his career high with his 27th goal. Wojtek Wolski's dropped the puck to the trailing Stempniak and he snapped a shot past Kiprusoff.
``We played really well for the most part,' Stempniak said. ``If we score on a couple of those chances, it's a different game.'
NOTES: Stempniak has 13 goals in 14 games since joining the Coyotes on March 3 in a trade with Toronto. ... The Coyotes are 7-4-1 on the back end of back-to-back games. ... Phoenix is 12-7-0 against the Northwest Division.
The Associated Press News Service
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