For Giguere, given the start as part of offering Semyon Varlamov a break, it was a chance to put his 234th win into the record books, which would have tied him with with Eddie Johnson for 50th in all time regular season wins. With the Avs perfect in road games coming into the matchup, he had to feel some confidence in achieving the mark.
His opposite in the Calgary net, however, had a more personal milestone on his mind -- his 35th birthday. Even better for the Turku, Finland native was celebrating by facing their division rival in an attempt to get his team back on track after two straight home losses. Kipper was 22-14-5 in his previous starts vs. the Avs, with four shutouts and a 2.55 GAA.
To capitalize on that history of goaltending, however, the Flames needed to get back to something they'd been having difficulty with -- scoring goals.
Fortunately, this game would be a story of two excellent periods by the Calgary offense, and an Avalanche team that brought too little, too late to counter them.
In the opening period, the Flames threw everything short of Brent Sutter's perpetual glower at Giguere and the Avalanche defense, but it would be the Avalanche who lit the lamp first on a power play opportunity with Rene Bourque boxed for a tripping call. Erik Johnson would unload a bomb from the blue line, and Paul Stasny slipped past the Calgary PK to snap up the rebound and throw it on a wide open net., but it struck the near post. Kyle Quincey, however, was able to pinch down low into a perfect spot to seize the rebound and slam it back into the net, scoring on the Avs' first official shot of the game.
The Flames, however, would not take long to answer. Continuing to pepper the net with shots, it would end up being rookie Roman Horak, elevated to the top line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, who did the deed. Sliding along the ice by the literal seat of his pants, Horak was able to take a nice chip shot as he slid past the net with Chuck Kobasew draped over his shoulders, popping it into the net on a fluky angle.
Despite the Flames eventually outshooting the Avs 21-5 in the first period, the game would be tied after 20 minutes. Avalanche coach Joe Sacco took his team to task for allowing the Flames to control the pace, but the second period would also belong to Calgary.
In the first five minutes of play, the Flames clearly turned up their physical aggression, unloading several big hits -- particularly one on phenom rookie Gabriel Landeskog- - before a shuffled formation of Horak, Lee Stempniak, and Niklas Hagman drove to the net. Stempniak collected a Horak rebound before stuffing it past Giguere for the 2-1 lead.
The Avalanche would attempt to turn the tables, applying solid pressure and making excellent use of their team speed, particularly against Jay Bouwmeester and Cory Sarich, but an ill timed Interference penalty from Kyle Quincey put the Flames up a man just before the midway point in the period. The Flames PP unit would set up and cycle the puck between Bouwmeester and Anton Babchuk before the Russian blueliner put a puck down to the side of the net, setting up Rene Bourque for a perfect chance at redemption for his earlier transgression. Bourque took the puck off the boards in flight and wristed it home before Giguere could adjust.
After 40 minutes, the Flames had a 3-1 lead and apparent control of the game, but any talk of birthday candles was silenced by a furious Colorado countercharge that began from the opening faceoff and quickly robbed the Flames of any momentum they might have attempted to carry into the final frame. Dominating the shot clock to the tune of 20-7, it seemed the team that had mastered "Cardiac Comebacks" versus Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, and Chicago was looking to engineer yet another come from behind performance -- particularly after Ryan Wilson was able to collect a Landeskog rebound with a little over four and a half minutes to go and take advantage of a stunned Calgary defense to cut the deficit to one.
With Giguere pulled in the final two minutes, the Avalanche came heartbreakingly close to the tying goal when Landeskog missed a seemingly gift-wrapped opportunity at the side of the net shortly after Milan Hejduk joined in as the extra attacker and another well-aimed shot by Erik Johnson was blocked by Mark Giordano after Kipper appeared to have lost his track in the rush of traffic. Finally, Rene Bourque was able to break free following a nice pass/bounce from Olli Jokinen and had clear ice to shoot on the empty net before being hauled down from behind by former teammate Scott Hannan.
With Bourque in the clear at the time he was hauled down, even though he was able to fire a shot that went just wide, and would be tipped in by Jokinen, Don Van Massenhoven ruled that it was worthy of a penalty shot -- and with the net empty, by rule, it was automatically a goal for Bourque.
With the insurance goal secured, the Flames still faced one last furious flurry, but their first and second period efforts secured a win despite the Avs' late heroics, giving their netminder his first win on home ice in the past three games as a much appreciated birthday gift.
For more on the game from the Colorado perspective, check in with SB Nation Denver and Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey. For more from the Calgary perspective, check in with Flames blog Matchsticks & Gasoline.