CALGARY - No other team in the NHL has scored more goals in the third period or won as many games trailing after two periods than the Calgary Flames. Calgary's scoring and goals-against in first periods rank in the bottom third of the 30 teams.
Playing to a crescendo keeps fans in their Scotiabank Saddledome seats to the final buzzer and likely limits the channel-surfing of those watching at home.
Peaking in the third hasn't hurt Calgary's playoff chances either as the Flames (28-20-3) ranked third in the Pacific Division and seventh in the Western Conference on Tuesday. The Flames trail the San Jose Sharks by two points and are at home to their division rival Wednesday.
With just over a third of the regular season to go, Calgary's third-period reputation is well known to other teams yet the Flames remain effective at late-game pushes.
"We never feel out of games," forward Josh Jooris said Tuesday.
A recent example was trailing the Edmonton Oilers by two heading into the third period Saturday before exploding for four goals. The Flames were up 2-1 on Winnipeg after two Monday and salted the 5-2 win away with two and an empty-netter in the third.
Calgary's 66 third-period goals were the most by any team in any period as of Tuesday. The Flames have won nine when trailing after two, which was two better than the division-leading Anaheim Ducks.
The Flames aren't a big, strong team, but they are nimble, fast and fit. As an opposing team's gas tank starts to drain in the third, or if they play conservatively to protect a lead, Calgary can dictate the pace with their counter-attack and ability to close gaps quickly.
"We're a well-conditioned team and I think that has something to do with it for sure," defenceman Kris Russell said.
"I feel like there have been times where we've been able to outskate teams in the third period. At the same time, if you're up one, there's a tendency to sit back a bit. We've done it too when we've had the lead. I think when we've been down, we've taken advantage of teams kind of sitting back."
As head coach Bob Hartley pointed out, it doesn't much matter when the goals are scored as long as his team has one more than the opposition at game's end.
"Maybe we're the cardiac kids, but at the same time, it's not part of the plan," Hartley said.
Calgary is capable of a lead and protecting it, as a 12-0 record when leading after two periods indicates. But the satisfaction of coming from behind for victories has done a lot for a young team's confidence.
"I think earlier in the season when we did have a few comebacks, it helps your confidence knowing you can do it," Russell said. "We're a resilient team and we won't quit and that's why we're doing so well in the third.
"At the same time too, I think we have to realize, the longer the year goes, we can't put ourselves in that many positions to keep trying to fight back."
There is a playing-with-fire aspect to saving their best hockey for the third period. While there currently isn't great urgency in Calgary to step up their game in the first period, the players agree it would be good if they did.
"It's not like we like to be desperate in the third, even though we've been successful at it," Jooris said.
"Down the stretch here, it's going to be tough. Teams are going to start playing tighter. A lot more is on the line. I think everyone likes to play with a lead."