CALGARY – Theoren Fleury can still electrify the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Fleury scored a breakaway goal that brought the Saddledome crowd of 19,289 to its feet, Curtis Glencross had a goal and four assists and the Calgary Flames beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 in NHL pre-season action Sunday.
Following a six-year absence from the National Hockey League, Fleury is trying to crack Calgary’s lineup at the age of 41. He was a rookie when the Flames won their only Stanley Cup in 1989 and became one of Calgary’s hockey legends.
Fleury also had an assist on Sunday.
“I just feel real thankful that they’ve given me this kind of opportunity,” said Fleury, while giving credit to his linemates Glencross and Daymond Langkow, who also had a goal and an assist.
“I’m starting to feel way more comfortable. I think the rust is finally coming off and I’m starting to play the way that I can play and the way that I knew I could play when I started this thing in February.”
Glencross set up Fleury’s breakaway goal at 7:53 of the third period.
“I got lucky to tip the puck right to Theo and he went in and made a nice move,” said Glencross, who watched as Fleury deked to his forehand before backhanding a shot between the legs of Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun. “I almost had my hands up before he shot the puck. It’s fun to watch.”
While Glencross led the way with a goal and three assists and Olli Jokinen notched a goal and two assists against his former team to give him six points in just two exhibition contests, it was Fleury who was the focus of post-game conversation.
“I wanted to give him a tap on the butt out there and just wish him well,” said Florida forward Stephen Weiss, who scored one of Florida’s goals early in the third period. “He’s a guy I looked up to when I was a kid being a smaller guy myself. I wish him all the best and it’s good to see him back and playing well.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter was more guarded in his post-game assessment of Fleury.
“He was solid,” Sutter said. “He was like everybody else, after the first period he got his feet moving and got going.”
Jarome Iginla also had a goal and an assist for the Flames (2-2), while goalie Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 11 of 12 shots he faced in two periods of action to record the win. Leland Irving turned aside 13 of 14 shots he faced in the third period.
David Booth also scored for the Panthers (2-3), who were playing their fifth game in six nights on the road against a Canadian opponent. Vokoun made 31 saves during the setback.
The Flames had a great chance to take an early lead when Langkow and Robyn Regehr broke into the Florida zone on a two-on-one. Regehr directed a pass from Langkow on net, but Vokoun stacked his pads to thwart the scoring chance.
Booth opened the scoring at 5:19 of the first period on Florida’s first shot of the game. Skating towards the net on his left wing, Booth took a pass from Scott Timmins and wired a low shot into the far corner past Kiprusoff.
Glencross tied the game at 4:15 of the second period when he tapped in a cross-crease pass from Iginla. Just 4:17 later, Iginla swatted a feed from Jokinen into a wide-open net behind a sprawling Vokoun to put Calgary up 2-1.
“In the second period there we got caught with a few icings and some tired legs out there,” Weiss said. “When that happens, those guys will take advantage of it.” Langkow then gave the Flames a two-goal lead at 15:04 of the second when his pass to Fleury went into the net behind Vokoun off Florida defenceman Jordan Henry.
After Weiss tipped a point shot by Dennis Seidenberg past Irving 48 seconds into the third period to pull the Panthers within a goal, Jokinen scored a power-play goal at 7:28 to give the Flames a two-goal cushion.
Just 25 seconds later, Fleury rounded out the scoring to send the fans home happy.
“Any time you can contribute offensively, it helps the cause for sure,” Fleury said.
Notes: The Flames will play their fourth exhibition game in five nights on Monday when they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks. Calgary assigned defencemen Keith Aulie, Gord Baldwin, Brad Cole, Josh Meyers and Keith Seabrook, forwards Ryley Grantham and J.D. Watt and goalie Matt Keetley to the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League. The Flames now have four goalies, 11 defencemen and 27 forwards left on their roster.