CALGARY – A huge first period will help Craig Conroy sleep at night.
Disappointed with his play of late, home loss to Phoenix on Tuesday, the Calgary Flames veteran responded Thursday night with his best game of the season. Conroy scored twice in the first period, including a short-handed goal, and added an assist as the Flames built up a 5-0 lead then hung on for a wild 7-6 victory over the Nashville Predators.
“When you lose, you go home and you lay there, you’re thinking about it, what could I have done differently, I made mistakes here and there,” Conroy said. “I haven’t been able to contribute the way I’d like and tonight I was so tonight will be a good night’s sleep.”
Conroy was a conspicuous minus-2 in the loss to Phoenix and was caught out of position on two key goals.
“I watched the plays, little mistakes… it’s disappointing because you feel like you’re letting down your team,” Conroy said.
Conroy opened the scoring at 7:26 when he took Eric Nystrom’s pass, broke in alone on rookie goaltender Pekka Rinne, and snapped his second goal of the season through Rinne’s pads.
Conroy said he felt great after that goal and it showed. He converted Jarome Iginla’s set-up at 16:44 to make it 3-0 then turned playmaker setting up Cory Sarich in the slot at 18:55.
“Even if you’re playing rec hockey, you get a goal, you feel a little more confident, you feel better, you have tons of energy, and you just know you’re going to get some chances,” he said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes, a goal, a point, a big hit, or something good to happen to you to get you in that mindset.”
Iginla also had a big night with a pair of power-play goals to go with a couple assists. Rene Bourque and Daymond Langkow also scored for Calgary (8-5-1). Todd Bertuzzi had three assists.
The Flames’ seventh win in their last nine games (7-2-0) keeps them tied with Minnesota atop the Northwest Division.
Shea Weber with a pair, Martin Erat, Jason Arnott, David Legwand, and Vernon Fiddler also scored for Nashville (6-6-1). The Predators have dropped the first two games of their season-long six game road trip.
“It really did start off on the wrong foot for us,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “Everything that could happen to us in the first period happened, everything went in the net, which dug us a big hole and we just tried to battle back.”
Coming off back-to-back victories in which he turned aside 51 of 54 shots, Rinne struggled with just six stops in the opening period before being replaced by Dan Ellis to start the second.
Trailing 7-4 late in the third, Nashville made an impressive late push getting a short-handed goal from Fiddler on a penalty shot with three minutes left and another short-handed goal from Weber with 20 seconds remaining.
However, the torrid rally would fall just short with Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff kicking aside Ryan Suter’s 30-foot backhand as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Trailing 5-0 early in the second period, Nashville made things interesting when they stormed back with three goals in just over five minutes, the first two coming on consecutive two-man advantages.
“I’m proud of our team. We didn’t just let it go, we battled for 60 minutes and almost came back,” said Erat. “We’ve just got to play better defence because we know we can score goals”.
After Weber’s goal at 8:25 drew Nashville to within two goals, Calgary responded with Langkow’s redirection one minute later to go back up by three.
“In the second, we got ourselves in a little bit of penalty trouble and their power-play got them going but then we responded well and took the play back over,” Iginla said. “For most of the game, it was a pretty good game until the final few minutes when we actually had the power-plays and we lost momentum there, they went bang-bang, a couple nice goals on a couple breakdowns by us.”
Thirty-eight seconds into the third, Iginla’s second of the night – and eighth of the season – put the Flames ahead 7-3 as the Flames captain converted a pretty passing play with Dion Phaneuf and Bertuzzi.
The final shots were 29-29.
Notes: Sarich’s goal was his first in 64 games dating back to Dec. 9, 2007… It was just the second win for Calgary in its last seven home games versus Nashville (2-4-1)… Langkow extends his point-scoring streak to five games (three goals, two assists)… Arnott has scored 25 goals against Calgary in 48 career games… Nashville only has one other road trip remaining that is longer than three games and that’s a four-game trip in March… Twice last year the Flames scored four times in a period and it came in the same game, a 9-6 victory over Tampa Bay on Dec. 13, 2007.