CALGARY – Tomas Holmstrom made himself right at home in front of the Calgary Flames’ goal and gave Detroit’s playoff push a huge boost.
Holmstrom’s 20th goal of the season on a deflection with 1:19 left in the third period gave the Red Wings an important 2-1 road victory over the Flames on Monday night.
Stationed at the top of the Flames goal crease directly in front of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, as he was most of the night, Holmstrom reached out and redirected Johan Franzen’s slapshot out of mid-air breaking a 1-1 tie.
“It looked like (Franzen) was going to get control of the puck so I just hung around the net. He knows where I am and I was lucky to get my stick on it,” said Holmstrom.
In a battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the eighth-place Red Wings moved three points up on the ninth-place Flames. Both teams have 13 games remaining.
“Every game against them is like a playoff game,” Holmstrom said. “But we really needed this game and it was uphill pretty much from the first couple shifts when they scored. It was a good, grinding 60 minutes from us.”
Pavel Datsyuk also scored for Detroit (34-23-12), which has won three straight.
Craig Conroy scored the lone goal for Calgary (34-26-9). The Flames have dropped two in a row on the heels of a four-game winning streak.
“I hope there’s some guys disappointed in there. There better be. We found ways to lose two games here when we need to find ways to win games,” said Calgary coach Brent Sutter. “Tonight we had a chance and never made the most of the opportunity. Last night we beat ourselves because we had a brutal first period.”
The Flames lost 3-1 Sunday night in Vancouver.
“It’s disappointing,” said Flames defenceman Steve Staios. “We played well enough to have a chance to win that game. Now we find ourselves in a more difficult situation, but we’ll have to show a lot of resilience and see what we’re made of now.”
Calgary had a great chance to break a 1-1 deadlock when Brian Rafalski’s high-stick on Craig Conroy early in the third period put Calgary on a four-minute power play.
However, the Flames generated just two shots on goal during the lengthy man advantage, and the Pengrowth Saddledome crowd of 19,289 started booing the Flames as they failed repeatedly to get set up in the Detroit zone.
“You’d like to find ways to get a goal, but also get scoring chances and keep momentum, so that was definitely a missed opportunity,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Detroit’s penalty killing continued to be superb. They have now gone six games without surrendering a power play goal, killing off 19 penalties during that span.
“It was unbelievable, guys were getting sticks in the lane, they broke up passes, we collapsed down and didn’t really give them much of anything,” said Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard. “When the power play’s constantly having to turn their back and go back and get the puck, it leaves them no time to get set up.”
With Calgary up 1-0, Curtis Glencross had a great chance to put the Flames up by two when was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked from behind while on a short-handed breakaway.
However, Glencross’ shot was kicked out by Howard.
“It’s only one opportunity all night. There’s 60 other minutes in the game. He made a nice save and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Glencross, who was trying for his fourth short-handed goal.
Forty seconds later, the Wings capitalized with the power-play. With Holmstrom positioned just outside the goal crease and obstructing Kiprusoff’s view, Datsyuk scored his 22nd goal, tying the score 1-1.
Detroit finished the night 1-for-1 with the extra man while Calgary went 0-for-3.
The Flames are 2-for-23 with the extra man over their last eight games.
“We need our power-play to capitalize for us. In these games that are so tight it comes down to specialty teams. That’s what the difference was tonight too,” said Sutter.
Calgary opened the scoring 1:47 into the first period taking advantage of Andreas Lilja’s inability to clear the puck out of the Red Wings end. Conroy was right alone at the side of the net to tuck in puck after Nigel Dawes’ shot trickled wide.
It was the first goal since New Year’s Eve for Conroy, who had been sidelined twice since then with two injuries that forced him to miss 17 games.
Detroit outshot Calgary 28-23.
Notes: It was Calgary’s first penalty shot of the season… Calgary LW Chris Higgins (lower body) did not play opening up a line-up spot for Dawes, who dressed for the first time in seven games… Detroit LW Todd Bertuzzi has gone 17 games without a goal… Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk entered the game with a league-leading 104 takeaways… Not in action again until Friday night when they play in Edmonton, Detroit will spend its days off in Kelowna, B.C. Two practices are planned for the scenic Okanagan Valley town as well as various team-building activities… Detroit has scored a power play goal in 10 consecutive games… The Red Wings have killed off 46 of their last 49 short-handed opportunities over the past 16 games.