Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Flames Strengthen Hold atop Division with 4-2 Win over Blue Jackets

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Flames Strengthen Hold atop Division with 4-2 Win over Blue Jackets

Article excerpt

Calgary outlasts desperate Columbus 4-2

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CALGARY - Every remaining game both a dress rehearsal for the playoffs and an opportunity to strengthen their post-season position, the Calgary Flames weathered a desperate Columbus Blue Jackets for a 4-2 win Tuesday.

A 31-save outing by Flames goaltender David Rittich -- who got a little luck from his goalposts too -- helped Calgary move three points clear of the San Jose Sharks at the top of the Pacific Division.

Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Frolik scored for the host team with Matthew Tkachuk adding an empty-net goal.

Austin Czarnik assisted on a pair of goals, while Rittich won his fourth start in a row.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and defenceman Zach Werenski countered for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots in the loss.

The first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot Sunday, the Flames (45-21-7) are still racing for first place in the division with nine games left in the regular season.

The Sharks were idle Tuesday but their playoff spot was assured when the Minnesota Wild lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

"It's nine games to the end, we got three points up so every single point is important," Rittich said. "We want to finish first."

Columbus (40-29-4) holds down the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot, one point up on Montreal following the Canadiens' 3-1 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Blue Jackets shooters hit three goal posts in their first 40 minutes in Calgary, prompting Rittich to give his posts a kiss during the game.

"Three goalposts," Blue Jackets forward Matt Duchene lamented. "We're playing good hockey. Just not getting the offence when we need it.

"We're finding ways to not score, I guess. It's frustrating, but you've got to keep going and have the faith that it's going to break. Today we lost some ground, but we're still in a (playoff) spot. …

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