Flames stay in playoff hunt with dismantling of Capitals

Well, that was quite a 24-hour swing. One day after the Calgary Flames looked done for the season, they went out and dominated the league’s top team.

Calgary Flame Eric Nystrom takes out Washington Capital Mike Green during the Flames 5-3 win Sunday in Washington. The win kept the Flames alive in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the West.

Calgary Flame Eric Nystrom takes out Washington Capital Mike Green during the Flames 5-3 win Sunday in Washington. The win kept the Flames alive in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the West.

Flames 5 Capitals 3

WASHINGTON — Well, that was quite a 24-hour swing. One day after the Calgary Flames looked done for the season, they went out and dominated the league’s top team.

Having reached the desperation point in their bid to make the playoffs, the Flames scored four goals in the first period Sunday and beat the Washington Capitals 5-3.

Captain Jarome Iginla had said the Flames needed to “run the table” to get into the post-season after a 5-0 loss at Boston on Saturday. He and his teammates responded by salvaging a three-game road trip that began with two losses.

“We played with the effort that we’re supposed to,” defenceman Robyn Regehr said, “and we have to do that for the rest of the year.”

The win moved Calgary within four points of eighth-place Colorado and within five of seventh-place Los Angeles in the Western Conference, pending the result of Colorado’s game later Sunday.

Ales Kotalik, Ian White, Jay Bouwmeester, Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque scored for the Flames. Miikka Kiprusoff, who was pulled in the third period of the loss to the Bruins, made 31 saves against the Capitals as Calgary won in Washington for the first time in 11 years.

“We’re all talking about that we want to be in the playoffs,” Iginla said. “But we’ve got to go earn it and earn a chance. Now we’re in position where we’re just trying to earn a chance and see what other teams do.”

Alex Ovechkin got his 46th goal for Washington and also had an assist to reach the 100-point mark for the fourth time in his five-year career. David Steckel and Mathieu Perreault also scored for the Capitals, who lost at home in regulation for only the fifth time in 36 games this season.

“We didn’t have any energy,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It looked like we were skating in quicksand. Their sense of urgency was so tremendous. They’d been embarrassed in Boston. We didn’t meet their push.”

Washington’s Jose Theodore was pulled at 10:34 of the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots, but his franchise-record 19-game streak without a regulation loss (17-0-2) remains intact because the Capitals later scored three goals. That made Semyon Varlamov, who gave up the fourth goal, the goalie of record.

“For the first time in a long time,” Boudreau said, “it looked like Theo was struggling a little bit.”

The Flames also spoiled a chance for the Capitals to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, although Washington would also take the No. 1 spot if New Jersey failed to win at Philadelphia later Sunday.

Three of the Flames’ goals were carom shots off Capitals goaltenders, including the first two. Kotalik stuffed in a rebound off Theodore’s left leg just 2:35 into the game, and White put a rebound off Theodore’s side as the goalie was falling on his back during the power play at the 8:28 mark.

Bouwmeester’s tip-in of Bourque’s pass made the score 3-0, chasing Theodore. The Flames kept scoring, however, with Hagman putting a backhander from the right circle inside the near post. The goal put the Capitals behind by four goals, a deficit they’d faced for a combined 4:32 on the entire season coming into the game.

First period summation: Calgary had four goals; Washington had four shots. Even more stunning was the fickle display by some Capitals fans. The runaway top team in the standings actually heard boos on the way to the locker room.

“When you’ve lost four out of 35 at home, give the guys at break,” Boudreau said. “I could see it if we were doing this on a regular basis.”

Ovechkin’s wrister from the right circle on a power play made it 4-1, but Bourque and Steckel traded goals to make it 5-2 going into the third. Perreault, recalled from the AHL earlier in the day, pulled the Capitals within two again when he put in the rebound off Ovechkin’s shot during a power play early in the third.

“You just put that one behind you and live for the next day,” Washington right wing Mike Knuble said. “It’s no indication of anything. It’s just one of those games you’re probably due for. It’s probably good for us at this point.”

Notes: The Flames’ last previous win in Washington was a 5-4 overtime tally on March 13, 1999. They had gone 0-4 with a tie in five trips since. … Perreault was recalled because C Brendan Morrison was out with a lower body injury that appears to be minor, and C Brooks Laich remains sidelined with facial injuries after getting struck in the face by a puck in practice last week. … Washington D Shaone Morrisonn missed the game after having his wisdom teeth removed.

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