CALGARY – The end of Game 3 lit the fuse for Wednesday’s Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference quarter-final series between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago’s Adam Burish breaking his stick on Rene Bourque’s shoulder and an irate Jarome Iginla wanting a piece of Burish in the ensuing melee in front of Chicago’s bench are the last images of Calgary’s 4-2 win Monday.
The Flames are attempting what has never been done in franchise history and that’s win a playoff series after opening 0-2.
After ending a six-game losing streak against the ‘Hawks this season, Calgary intends to hold serve at Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET) and head back to Chicago even up for Saturday’s Game 5.
The Blackhawks seem to have made it their mission to harry and harass Flames captain Jarome Iginla. TSN commentator Pierre McGuire, whose perch is between the players’ benches, repeated his commentary Tuesday saying he’d never seen a star player like Iginla take as much verbal abuse as the Calgary captain has this series.
“This has been going on incessantly since Game 1 and it hasn’t stopped,” McGuire said. “That’s why Jarome at the end of the game, went off.”
But Iginla insists it was the cross-check to Bourque and not any of the Blackhawks crossing the line in their insults and taunts.
“There wasn’t any one thing as far as verbal that got to me,” the Flames captain insisted. “I can take that. Verbal abuse is nothing. Trash talking is fine.”
Flames head coach Mike Keenan said Tuesday he addressed the trash talking with Iginla, whose father is Nigerian.
“I talked to Jarome about it today and he’s fine with it as long as its not racial, he doesn’t care,” Keenan explained. “The league will certainly deal with it if it becomes more than what it is.”
What also may have added to Iginla’s frustration Monday was being held to just two shots on net. He has a goal and an assist in three post-season games.
It was Bourque and foot soldiers David Moss and Eric Nystrom providing the scoring Monday.
Tuesday’s other subplots included Chicago sniper Patrick Kane practising after sitting out Game 3 with what the ‘Hawks said was the flu. Chicago missed the offence of their No. 2 scorer Monday.
Kane is the top goal-scorer on the power play and the ‘Hawks went 1-for-7 in Game 3.
“He’s probably the scariest guy in this league from the red line down,” Chicago forward David Bolland said.
There were questions over whether Kane had the flu or was suffering from the thunderous check Bourque dealt him in Game 2 in Chicago. The 20-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., contributed some levity to the avoidance and outright deception practised by NHL teams in the playoffs when it comes to revealing the nature of injuries.
“I had a funeral to go back to in Chicago. The goldfish that I had since I was 10 years old died so I had go back and say my prayers and flush him down the toilet,” Kane quipped. “I just bought a turtle.”
The status of Bourque, whose name just kept popping up Tuesday, may be gamesmanship on the part of Keenan, who said the winger from Lac La Biche, Alta., was “day to day to day as a result of the incident last night.”
The Flames head coach insisted Monday that Burish injured Bourque with a “blatant” cross-check to the face, although replays showed the stick broke over Bourque’s chest and shoulder. Bourque was not made available to the media Tuesday to clarify his status.
“I don’t think I crossed the line,” Burish said. “I did what needed to be done. It’s playoff hockey. It’s the same reason they’re hitting our guys and they come at me and the same reason I’m going at them.
“Mike Keenan called it a cross-check to the head. It wasn’t too close to the head. I think he was wrong.”
Burish and Bourque were Blackhawks teammates last year before Bourque’s trade to Calgary. They also played together at Wisconsin.
“I’m still going to hopefully have a beer with him after the season is done, but he’s not my friend on the ice,” Burish said.
As for getting under Iginla’s skin, it’s long been a point of debate – even with Iginla himself – that he plays better when he’s angry. Teammate Craig Conroy believes that’s true and says the Blackhawks may wake a sleeping giant if they keep up their campaign against Iginla.
“They’re trying to come after Jarome and if they think that’s going to work, that’s what they’re going to keep doing,” Conroy said. “But on the other hand, Jarome gets fired up and we feel he plays better when he’s on the edge like that.”
So the stage is set for an acrimonious Game 4.
“It’s going to be a blast, it’s going to be mean, it’s going to be nasty and that’s what I love,” Burish said.
When asked if he thought the physicality of the series would continue to escalate, Keenan replied: “In hockey, you can’t run out of bounds. There’s no where to go.”