COLUMBUS, Ohio – Henrik Karlsson waited a long time to make his NHL debut. It was clearly worth it.
The six-foot-five Swede stopped 20 shots and Rene Bourque scored three goals and added an assist to lead the Calgary Flames past the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-2 on Friday night.
“I was a little nervous, actually,” said the 26-year-old undrafted rookie, acquired from San Jose last summer. “I knew I was going to play this game, for like a week. I’ve been waiting for a long, long time.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter was thrilled with Karlsson’s composure in his first appearance.
“I thought he handled it really well,” Sutter said. “After the first few minutes, he settled in. He looked big in net. Aside from the first goal, where the rebound went right out into the slot, other than that, tell you what, he was rock solid.”
Karlsson, who has spent most of his professional career in his native Sweden, was filling in for starter Miikka Kiprusoff. Karlsson faced only four shots in the first period, but a couple of those were prime scoring opportunities that he turned away. He then got better as the game progressed.
Bourque’s big night—matching a career high in goals and points in a game—allowed Karlsson to play with little pressure.
“He looked so relaxed in net,” said Bourque, who has four goals this season. “He’s so big in net. He plays his angles well. He’s been working great in practice. You definitely could see that he was ready to go tonight.”
Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Alex Tanguay also scored for the Flames. Jarome Iginla had three assists and Olli Jokinen, Matt Stajan and Robyn Regehr each added two assists.
With the Flames leading 2-1, Bourque scored in the final minute of the first period off a drop pass from Jokinen and then added a short-handed goal in the second period on a one-timer off a nifty set-up pass from Mikael Backlund for a 4-1 advantage. He picked up his third goal in the final seconds, rocketing his own rebound past goalie Steve Mason.
“I was just fortunate to get a couple of good passes,” Bourque said. “Back’s goal was a tap-in. Olli made a nice drop pass to me. The third one I kind of got lucky. I got a rebound off the defenceman and put it up top glove.”
Derek Dorsett and Jan Hejda had goals for Columbus, beaten badly for the second time in three games at Nationwide Arena. Two nights after drawing a franchise-worst crowd of 9,802, the Blue Jackets drew 10,784.
“It shouldn’t happen,” captain Rick Nash said, who picked up an ill-advised high-sticking penalty largely out of frustration. “We are at home in front of our home fans. We are just disappointed in the effort we put in tonight.”
First-year Columbus coach Scott Arniel hinted at substantial changes when the Blue Jackets play in Chicago against the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Saturday night.
“We’re getting an awful lot of mileage out of our grit players and we need more from some of our top people,” he said.
NOTES: D Anton Stralman returned to the Columbus lineup after missing two games because of a strained shoulder. … The Flames return home for a five-game homestand. … In two power plays over the first two periods, Columbus had no shots—and gave up a goal. … The sparse crowd booed lustily when the Blue Jackets went to the dressing room after each of the first two periods.