CALGARY – Jarome Iginla busted out of a slump and in doing so led the Flames to a historic victory over Edmonton in the storied Battle of Alberta.
Iginla had two goals and two assists Saturday night as Calgary snapped a nine-game winless skid with a 6-1 win over the reeling Oilers. The Flames finish a perfect 6-0 against Edmonton in the season series, the first time in the 29-year existence of the Battle of Alberta that either team has swept a season series.
“I thought right from the start, we were ready,” said Iginla. “It was great to feed off the energy in these games – the Battle of Alberta. Whatever the standings are, they’re still important games and the fans are into it.”
Mired in its worst slump (0-6-3) since an 11-game losing streak in 1986, Calgary found a tonic in the lowly Oilers, the only NHL team struggling worse.
“It was a big game for our team,” said Iginla, who had been struggling as of late with one goal and six point in the previous 13 games. “There was a lot of talk, we knew neither team had won in a long time.
“It’s three games in a row with a point so it’s something to build on. It’s the right direction and it feels good tonight.”
For the umpteenth time this season, Iginla opened the game with new linemates.
Head coach Brent Sutter’s latest experiment had recently recalled Swedish rookie Mikael Backlund at centre with Dustin Boyd patrolling left wing.
The trio connected on their second shift. Denis Grebeshkov’s attempted clear around the boards was blocked by Boyd. Backlund centred a pass to Iginla, who chipped the puck across the crease to Boyd for an easy tap-in.
Boyd’s second goal at 6:48 of the second period came on a botched pass between Sheldon Souray and Sam Gagner and was the first of three second period goals for the Flames as they took a 5-1 lead.
“We needed to change something up, get some different line combos and tonight it worked, everyone contributed,” said Boyd.
Calgary had been in an offensive funk lately, especially at home where the Flames entered the night with just six goals in their last six games and 15 in their last 11 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
The offensive eruption marked the first time Calgary scored more than three goals on home ice since a 5-2 win over Edmonton on Oct. 24.
Dion Phaneuf and Rene Bourque also scored for Calgary (27-20-8), which moves past Detroit and back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We look at the standings and it’s so bunched up, we figure we can still put a string together and climb quickly,” Iginla said.
Gagner had the lone goal Edmonton (16-31-6). In seven straight road defeats, the Oilers have scored just seven goals.
Edmonton is last overall in the NHL, seven points back of the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“You get down, you don’t like what’s going on. You start feeling sorry for yourselves. All of those emotions come to play and that’s when it’s hard to fight,” said Edmonton coach Pat Quinn.
“It sounds trite, but it’s absolutely true. If you get afraid of the end result then you don’t do the things you need to do and when you don’t do them, you don’t have a chance.”
Edmonton has gone winless in 13 games (0-11-2) and have just one win in its past 21 games (1-18-2).
“What more can you say,” said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. “I thought we were rock bottom a few games ago. We keep creating all-time lows for ourselves.”
Iginla capped off a four-point night converting Boyd’s pass at 9:40 of the third period.
The Flames captain had just come out of the penalty box after energizing the sell-out crowd of 19,289 with a spirited fight with Souray. The veteran Oilers defenceman suffered a fractured hand in the scrap and will be re-examined tomorrow in Edmonton.
“Iggy plays with a lot of emotion. It was one heck of a fight, all the boys were pumped up,” said Boyd.
The Oilers are also closing in on the team record for consecutive games without a win, which is 14 set in 1993.
“There’s only one place to go and that’s up,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “We just have to keep working through this. There are things we can do to correct our game, to make it better, and it all starts in practice.”
Dubnyk finished with 24 saves to fall to 0-6-1.
Kiprusoff turned aside 27 shots to improve to 24-16-8.
Notes: It was Bourque’s sixth goal and 12th point against Edmonton this season… Edmonton C Mike Comrie was a scratch after returning Thursday night from a bout with mono that sidelined him for 30 games… Edmonton C Patrick O’Sullivan returned after being a healthy scratch Thursday and assisted on the Oilers only goal. …Iginla’s assist on Bourque’s goal was his 900th career point. …The last time two teams with winless streaks of nine or more games faced each other was Jan. 16, 1988 when Pittsburgh (0-6-4) and Toronto (0-6-4) met, a game won by the Penguins. … Calgary-born country music star Paul Brandt sang the national anthem as well as performed a song from centre ice during the second intermission.