CALGARY – It came in front of his home fans and was the game-winner in an important victory.
Jarome Iginla’s pursuit of 500 goals in the NHL had a perfect ending Saturday night.
Iginla made history in a three-goal third period as Calgary snapped a five-game winless skid with a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
“It’s definitely a lot more special to do it here at home, and as part of a win. The crowd was great tonight, they were into the game,” said Iginla, in his 15th NHL season. “I’ve been very blessed in hockey to have some great moments and memories that will stick with me—been part of different games and scoring some different goals, but that’s one that I’ll definitely remember.”
Scoreless into the third period, Lance Bouma’s first NHL goal put the Flames ahead at 2:02 before Iginla sent the sold-out Scotiabank Saddledome crowd into a frenzy at 8:33.
The Flames captain came down the right wing and sent a pass in front that went off the skates of two Minnesota players and in past Wild goalie Nicklas Backstrom.
At first, Iginla said he didn’t know it was his goal because both Jay Bouwmeester and Curtis Glencross were going to the net.
But it became clear shortly after as the crowd of 19,289 erupted into a standing ovation and every Calgary player spilled off the bench to offer congratulations.
“I feel very fortunate. I’ve got to play with some very good passers and have been given some great opportunities and gotten some great bounces and one was tonight,” said Iginla, who becomes the 42nd NHL player to reach the mark and just the 15th to do it with the same organization.
Chants of “Iggy, Iggy” soon filled the building and as the ovation continued, Iginla stood up on the bench and acknowledged the crowd with a wave.
“It’s a remarkable number and an amazing feat,” said Flames centre Brendan Morrison, who did not play due to an upper body injury. “It’s almost as if it was meant to be. Back here at the Saddledome where he’s spent his entire career with the Calgary Flames, in front of the home fans, family, mom and dad, his kids, all that stuff. It doesn’t get any better.”
After being named the game’s first star, Iginla took another skate around the arena, again acknowledging the crowd.
“Calgary fans have been good to me over the years, and good to us as a team. It was a great atmosphere tonight. It was pretty neat,” he said.
Curtis Glencross, with his team-leading 17th goal, also scored for Calgary (19-19-5).
Dany Heatley replied for Minnesota (21-15-6), breaking Miikka Kiprusoff’s shutout bid with less than seven minutes left.
Bouma’s goal came on a rebound after Backstrom stopped Lee Stempniak’s shot from the right wing. The puck caromed right out to the 21-year-old, who fired it into the open side.
“It was pretty exciting. As soon as I saw it go in, I was pretty happy and relieved that it went in because I had a few games last year where I could have scored but didn’t,” said Bouma. “To get my first goal when Iggy gets his 500th is pretty cool.”
The goal snapped a scoreless streak of over 128 minutes for the Flames.
Bouma, recalled earlier in the day from Abbotsford of the AHL to replace Morrison, appeared in 16 games for Calgary last year.
With the building still buzzing after the Iginla goal, Glencross scored at 11:15 to make it 3-0.
Heatley scored at 13:41 but the Wild would get no closer as Calgary outshot Minnesota 36-28.
“We’ve got to try and find a way to reset,” said Wild centre Kyle Brodziak. “We’ve obviously lost our game in the last month or so. It’s just a matter or resetting everywhere. Everything we do has to be find a way to get back to doing the little things we were doing when we were having success.”
The Flames were 0-4-1 in the final five games of their season-long seven-game road trip, including a 9-0 drubbing by the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. The injury-riddled club currently has eight players sidelined and are also without Rene Bourque, who served the second game of a five-game suspension.
The Wild, meanwhile, have just one victory in their last 12 and are winless in their last seven on the road (0-6-1).
“A lot of times when you’re struggling, you end up on your heels a lot and I find that that’s the case for us a lot of the time—we’re just not that aggressive,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “I don’t know if it’s fear or a lack of confidence or whatever it is, but we don’t attack the same way.”
Calgary had not been at home since Dec. 23, having vacated the Scotiabank Saddledome to accommodate the world junior hockey championships. But with the win, the Flames are 7-0-1 in their last eight games at home.
Notes: It was Iginla’s 80th game-winning goal, which ranks him 22nd on the all-time list. … Iginla ties Lanny McDonald at 500 goals. In 40th is former Flame Joe Mullen at 502. … Minnesota D Clayton Stoner (groin) returned after missing five games. … With D Scott Hannan out of the lineup, Clay Wilson made his season debut after being called up from Abbotsford. … Of the Flames injured, D Mark Giordano (hamstring) is back practising and considered the closest to returning. Hurt on Nov. 29, Giordano has missed 20 games. … Also in the lineup for Calgary was C Blair Jones, acquired Friday in a trade with Tampa Bay. … Brent Sutter collected his 100th win as Flames coach. … Kiprusoff’s 294th victory ties him with Mike Liut for 28th all-time.