CALGARY – A rare goal from one of the Calgary Flames’ most popular players gave them the offensive spark they desperately needed.
Thirty-nine-year-old veteran Craig Conroy scored the winning goal and a superb Miikka Kiprusoff made 21 saves as the Flames won their home opener Sunday night, 3-1 over the Los Angeles Kings.
Conroy gave the Flames a 2-0 lead at 1:20 of the third period when he used Davis Drewiske as a screen and picked the top corner of the Kings’ goal from 40 feet out.
“I didn’t even see it go in, to be honest, I looked and saw the red light go on and I was like ‘that went in?,'” said Conroy, who scored just three goals in 63 games last year. “Maybe it just surprised me more than anything, I don’t know if I’ve scored from out there with a wrist shot in a long time.”
Conroy, a fan favourite, was a healthy scratch for Calgary’s season opener but got in Sunday’s game in place of injured winger Raitis Ivanans (head).
“It was a chance to get in and if you don’t do anything, you’re probably going to come right back out, there’s lots of guys here,” said Conroy. “So, you just want to prove that you can help the team and you can do some good things.”
After dropping its season opener 4-0 Thursday night in Edmonton, Calgary turned in a better effort before a sell-out crowd of 19,289 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Curtis Glencross opened the game’s scoring 11:31 into the second period with a short-handed goal. Jack Johnson mishandled the puck at the Flames’ blue-line and Brett Sutter banged it off the boards and softly down the ice.
Glencross collected the puck deep in the Kings’ zone and cut to the front of the net, where he eluded Jonathan Bernier’s poke check and slid in a backhand.
“I was definitely thinking I was running out of real estate. I had to put a little extra reach on it to try and get it around him and I just got enough,” said Glencross, who was second on the team with three short-handed goals last season.
Johnson shrugged off the goal as a result of bad luck.
“We had some troubles just getting the puck to settle down for us on the power play there. They’re aggressive and they got a good bounce and they took advantage of it but still, that wasn’t the end of the world, there was lots of hockey still to be played,” said the Kings defenceman.
Although Kiprusoff just missed his 35th career shutout, he was the reason the game was still scoreless when Glencross gave the Flames the lead.
Early in the second he jabbed out his pad to stop a dangerous shot from rookie Brayden Schenn. A couple minutes later, Kiprusoff poke checked the puck away from Jarrett Stoll as he cut hard to the net and then jabbed out his glove to thwart Brad Richardson on his follow-up shot from the slot.
“Kiprusoff played well but I don’t think we got enough quality chances on him,” said Stoll. “We could have done a better job getting more traffic to him, more second chance opportunities. If he sees that puck, he’s going to stop it, we know that.”
Dustin Brown deflected in Anze Kopitar’s shot at 14:06 of the third period to cut Calgary’s lead to 2-1. However, unlike the previous night when the Kings tied the game late against Vancouver then won in a shootout, they couldn’t get the tying goal.
Niklas Hagman scored into an empty net with 23 seconds left to round out the scoring for Calgary (1-1-0). The Flames have won ten straight against the Kings on home ice.
The Flames are off until Thursday when their three-game homestand resumes against the Florida Panthers.
Los Angeles (1-1-0) returns home where they’ll play their home opener Tuesday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
“Unfortunately, we gave that game to them with opportunities on the power play, the short-handed goal, and the second goal was a turnover trying to make a cute play inside the offensive blue line and they came right back at us,” said Kings coach Terry Murray.
It was a rough first period for the Flames who lost right-winger Rene Bourque and defenceman Adam Pardy to injury in the opening seven minutes.
Pardy was hurt on his opening shift hitting the boards heavily after an attempted hit on Wayne Simmonds.
Five minutes later, Bourque looked woozy as he staggered off the ice after a collision in his own end with six-foot-four, 228 pound Kings rookie Kevin Westgarth.
Neither player returned and no update on their condition was provided post game.
Notes: Veteran defencemen Steve Staios and Cory Sarich were healthy scratches again for the Flames… Brendan Morrison has two assists for his first points as a Flame… Other than the change in starting goaltender, Los Angeles went with the identical line-up they deployed against Vancouver… The Kings last road win against the Flames was Dec. 21, 2005… Calgary is 14-2 against the Kings in its last 16… It was the first of 13 sets of back-to-back games for the Kings this season… The Flames all-time record in home openers is 18-13-7 … Calgary D Robyn Regehr played in his 750th career NHL game — all of them with the Flames.