COLUMBUS, Ohio – Alex Tanguay lost his man and found a game-winner.
Tanguay scored on a one-timer 1:07 into overtime to lead the Calgary Flames past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Thursday night in a battle of Western Conference cellar-dwellers.
Shortly after Columbus threatened on two shots by Fedor Tyutin, the Flames had an odd-man rush and Jarome Iginla saucered a cross-ice assist to Tanguay, who unloaded from the right dot.
Before that, however, Tanguay said he was almost the goat. He credited little-used goaltender Leland Irving, who picked up only his second career victory, for covering for him.
“Actually, it all started with Leland,” Tanguay said with a chuckle. “I lost my guy in the defensive zone and they made a great play and Leland made a stop. Then (T.J.) Brodie started the play off in the corner, beat one of their guys and we were off on a 3-on-2.”
Brodie, who had two assists, fed Jarome Iginla and he set up Tanguay for the winner.
“Iggy drove to the net and made a great pass to me,” Tanguay said. “I just had to shoot and it was pretty much if I hit the net then I’d get a good chance to score. And the puck went in.”
Roman Cervenka, Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak also scored for the Flames, who won their second in a row. Jiri Hudler added two assists.
Tanguay extended his points streak to seven games in a row, during which he has four goals and five assists.
The teams came into the game with the fewest points in the Western Conference, Calgary (2-3-2) was last with six and Columbus (3-6-1) was 14th with seven.
But the Flames, unlike the Blue Jackets, feel like they’re shaking off their slow start.
“A gutsy effort, that’s the first thing I’m going to say,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We scored the first goal and they came right back. We didn’t really get the first period that we wanted, but the second and third periods, we owned the puck. We made some great plays—like a great penalty kill at the end of (regulation). And then we got the winner with Tang.”
The Flames were without two of their top players. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is listed as day to day with a leg injury. Center Mike Cammalleri, tied for the team lead in assists with five, was a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury.
Irving took Kiprusoff’s place in net in just his ninth NHL game. He was making his first start since March 16, 2012, a 3-1 loss to Edmonton. His previous and only NHL win came on Dec. 23, 2011, a 3-1 win in Vancouver.
“There’s nothing better. It’s pretty exciting,” he said after the victory. “The boys really came through tonight and played great. I’m glad they were rewarded with two points.”
Mark Letestu had a goal and two assists for the first three-point game of his 145-game career, while Vinny Prospal had a goal and an assist, and Matt Calvert also scored for the Blue Jackets.
Coach Todd Richards was perplexed by his team coming out strong in the first period but then getting manhandled in the second and for much of the third periods.
“We have to figure it out,” Richards said after Columbus’ third loss in the first four games of a franchise-record tying six-game home stand. “For 20 minutes it’s good and then we lose our game. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s not one shift or two shifts; it’s for an extended period of time.”
Tied at 2 heading into the third period, the Flames carried over their domination from the second.
With 4 seconds left in a power play, Stempniak notched his fourth. He was racing along the right wing with the puck when he let go of a hard, rising slap shot that eluded goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Irving picked up an assist for his first NHL point.
The Blue Jackets countered with 9 minutes left in regulation when Letestu forced a turnover with a check in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the offensive zone. He left a drop pass for Prospal, who found the net with a one-timer from just outside the left hash mark to tie it again.
Irving got enough of Tyutin’s hard shot early in the overtime to send it high into the air and behind the cage. Tyutin was then wide on a shot off a backdoor pass—with the Flames taking advantage at the other end almost immediately.
NOTES: The last three meetings had gone to a shootout with the visiting team winning each. … The Flames had scored at least one power-play goal in six of seven games this season and came in fifth in the NHL at 26.7 per cent, but were 0 for 4. … The Blue Jackets were 1 for 4. … Extending points streaks for Columbus were Brassard (2-2-4 in four games) and Letestu (2-3-5 in three). … Calgary improved to 8-14-1 in Nationwide Arena.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap