CALGARY – Ales Kotalik showed fans in Calgary that he still has what it takes to produce offensively in the NHL.
Kotalik scored the game-deciding goal in a shootout to lead the Flames to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in pre-season play Saturday.
“I’ve got a couple moves,” said Kotalik, who fired a low shot off the post and in behind Tampa Bay goalie Cedrick Desjardins during the shootout. “I’m in the league for a long time. I’ve been in 50 shootouts already. I’ve got some go-to moves and this was one of them. I’m just happy it brings us another win.”
Kotalik also had a goal and two assists for the Flames (3-0-0) in regulation.
“I’m trying to play my game,” said the 31-year-old Czech forward, who’s looking to bounce back from a sub-par season last year when he scored just 11 goals and 16 assists in 71 contests with the New York Rangers and Flames.
“I’m starting with a clean table. Things are happening for me so far.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter said Kotalik came to training camp with the Flames in great shape after training hard during the off-season.
“He’s been a driven guy,” Sutter said. “He knows he’s got confidence from his coaching staff that we believe in him and he can go out there and get the job done for us.”
Rookie defenceman T.J. Brodie also had a good game with a pair of power-play goals.
“I’m just out here working hard and trying to get a spot somewhere whether it’s here or Abbotsford (with the Heat of the American Hockey League),” Brodie said.
Sutter has been pleased with Brodie’s positive attitude so far in training camp and rewarded the 20-year-old prospect with power-play time.
“He’s an intelligent kid,” Sutter said. “He knows the game and he picks things up very quickly. He’s very coachable.”
Veteran forward Craig Conroy also scored for Calgary, while Mark Giordano chipped in with three assists.
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 13-of-15 shots he faced through two periods of action before being relieved by Matt Keetley to start the final frame. After making 10 saves in the third period and overtime, Keetley made a nice pad save on a shot by Lightning forward Simon Gagne during the shootout.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for the Lightning (2-2-0), which was playing its fourth game in five nights on the road. Steven Stamkos notched a goal and an assist and Gagne also scored.
In just his second game of the pre-season, forward Martin St. Louis was impressed that he and his teammates were able to mount a comeback after falling behind 3-1.
“The only disappointing part is we didn’t start very strong,” said St. Louis, who had a pair of assists in the contest.
“We kind of gave them a head start. We were able to fight back. If we play like we played in the second half of that game, I don’t think it would have been the same result. It’s a 60-minute game. We’ve got to find a way to come out of the gate harder than that.”
Desjardins made 19 saves through three periods and overtime before stopping just one of two shots he faced in the shootout.
The Lightning opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the game when Lecavalier took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off the end boards and backhanded a shot past a bewildered Kiprusoff.
It took the Flames until almost the seven minute mark to record their first shot on net, but that shot resulted in Brodie’s first-ever NHL pre-season marker. With the Flames on the power play, Giordano blasted a shot from the right point that bounced off the post and into the left faceoff circle where Brodie was waiting to deposit the puck into a wide-open net.
With the Flames enjoying a two-man advantage later in the first period, Brodie snapped a wrist shot into the top corner over Desjardins’ blocker to put Calgary up 2-1.
Conroy then put the Flames up 3-1 at 8:30 of the second period when he converted a feed from Staffan Kronwall.
Just 75 seconds later, Gagne took a pass from Stamkos and blasted a one-timer past Kiprusoff to pull the Lightning within a goal.
Before being replaced by Keetley in net to start the third, Kiprusoff made a pair of great glove grabs onquality scoring chances by Gagne and Stamkos.
At 6:33 of the third, Kotalik roofed a shot past Desjardins to give the Flames a 4-2 lead before Lecavalier scored his second of the contest during a Tampa Bay power play to make it a one-goal game.
Late in the game, the Lightning had a great chance to tie it up when forward Eric Perrin snuck behind the Calgary defence and snapped a shot off the post behind Keetley.
Conroy then took a hooking penalty with less than two minutes to play in regulation to put the Lightning back on the power play and Stamkos made the Flames pay when he one timed a pass from Pavel Kubina past Keetley.
Tampa Bay had the best scoring chance in overtime, but Keetley slid across his crease to make a nice pad save that turned aside a shot by Stamkos.
Notes: It was the first-ever exhibition contest between the Flames and Lightning. . . After hosting the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Tuesday night, the Flames will travel to Saskatoon to face the New York Islanders at the Credit Union Centre the following evening. . . The Lightning will now return to Florida for a home-and-home series against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise next Friday and back in Tampa Bay two nights later to wrap up their exhibition schedule.