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T'was three nights before Christmas, and all through the town, Not a Flames fan was cheering, they all wore a frown.

And why wouldn't they be sour? In their final outing before the Christmas break, the Calgary Flames were on the road, mired in the depths of an eight-game losing streak and down 3-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Things couldn't look much worse. The defensively sound Kings know better than any NHL team how to lock down a lead. It's in their championship DNA.

Moreover, the Kings entered the game clinging to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the Flames. In the cold mathematical light of day, it wasn't a stretch to think if Calgary lost in regulation, their once-promising season was headed down the drain. Thankfully for the Flames, a Christmas miracle suddenly occurred: Two late-third-period goals by rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau forced overtime, and then team captain Mark Giordano won it with his 10th goal (and, remarkably, 34th point) of the season.

So now, instead of being down five points in the standings at the Christmas break, the Flames were behind by only two. Instead of answering questions about the longest slump of the Bob Hartley era, they were earning kudos for their resilience (so far, six victories when going into the third period behind by a goal or more).

Psychologically, it is impossible to quantify how much one solitary victory might mean, but relief was certainly apparent on the players' faces as they scattered for the holiday. A merry time was had by all, before the season resumes Saturday night with a visit from the Edmonton Oilers, the first of two home games for Calgary against their provincial rivals in a span of five nights.

And while the Flames felt as if they'd righted their course heading into the break, the Grinch was messing with the hearts and minds of Oilerville. "I'm sure the fans aren't going to like hearing this, but I'm going to get away from the game; and I'm sure everyone else too – I think we all need a break from this," said Oilers winger Taylor Hall, following the team's final pre-Christmas match, a 5-1 home-ice loss at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes. "Hopefully, we come back rejuvenated and all pointing in the same direction. The season is – I couldn't imagine a worse start to the year than we've had."

Hall's reference was to the fact that the Oilers had won just one of their previous 20 games to sink to the bottom of the overall NHL standings – and it isn't even close down there any more. Edmonton had 21 points at the break; the Carolina Hurricanes were next at 24, then the Coyotes at 28 and the Buffalo Sabres with 29.

The prize for absolute failure is a chance to perhaps land a top pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft, the only thing the Oilers remain in contention for. While they've shown some signs of life under the new coaching regime of Todd Nelson and Craig MacTavish, they were also continuing to find creative new ways of losing.

Over all, it has been a rough December in both Alberta precincts, but while the Oilers are pointing directly at next year, the Flames are a decent week away from vaulting back into the top eight.

"For all the bad things, luck-wise, that have happened to us lately, I think we deserved a break and we got one," said Giordano, whose Norris Trophy-calibre season is just one of the things Calgary fans can be thankful for.

Another: How Gaudreau has inserted himself into the Calder Trophy conversation, even if the Nashville Predators' Filip Forsberg looks like the clear-cut favourite at the moment.

Gaudreau's ability to adapt to the NHL level was no sure thing when training camps opened, and there was some thought that easing him into professional hockey with an AHL assignment might be the way to go.

But Gaudreau – all 5-foot-9, 150 pounds of him – has proved adaptable, one of those players with the uncanny ability to find open spaces on a crowded sheet of ice. In some ways, it's Patrick Kane-like, finding the quiet areas and then backing off defencemen because they fear he'll sift past them with a move. Gaudreau is also good at making plays at top speed, something other less able offensive players sometimes cannot do, which is why Hartley is using him in all the key moments of a game.

"The way that this young man is progressing right now, the way that he's growing right now around our organization, he doesn't give me a choice," Hartley said. "You look on the bench and you see this guy dominate. We get back between periods; we talk between coaches and his name always comes up – generating chances, playing well defensively, making plays."