ST. PAUL, Minn. – Despite being the career leader in goals against the Minnesota Wild, Jarome Iginla hadn’t scored one in 10 games.
He certainly broke out of his slump in a big way.
Iginla recorded his 10th career hat trick – his third against Minnesota – and Vesa Toskala made 27 saves in his first start since being traded to Calgary as the Flames beat the Wild 5-2 on Sunday. Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who stayed within a point of Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Iginla hadn’t scored a goal against Minnesota since March 22, 2008 – he had a hat trick in that game, too.
“I’d be lying if I said I was aiming those,” said Iginla, who assisted on last week’s gold medal-winning goal by Sidney Crosby for Canada against the United States. “I was really just trying to hit them hard, and fortunately, they came off the right way.”
He broke the drought with a slapshot that beat Niklas Backstrom to put the Flames up 3-1 in the second period. Iginla also scored in the third on another slapshot during a 5-on-3 power play, and added an empty-net goal with 1:33 left.
“I don’t know if there’s a goalie in the league that would’ve stopped that one,” Minnesota’s Greg Zanon said of Iginla’s second goal.
“He’s got that grit and intangibles of a great hockey leader, and he has an incredibly high offensive skill level,” said Steve Staios, who was traded to the Flames from Edmonton last week. “It’s nice being on this side of it, that’s for sure.”
Guillaume Latendresse scored both goals for the Wild, who entered in 12th place in the West and dug themselves a bigger hole with the Flames and Detroit both winning Sunday.
“Definitely making it harder,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “But I don’t doubt this team, the players have shown over and over that dealing with adversity or bleak circumstances, they have been able to come through. I’m definitely not counting them out.”
Toskala was traded to Anaheim for J.S. Giguere on Jan. 31, and then to Calgary for Curtis McElhinney on March 3. He made his first start since Jan. 30, when he was still minding net for Toronto, playing in place of resting Olympian Miikka Kiprusoff. He looked solid in net for his new team, save for the couple of second-period goals by Latendresse, who has 21 goals in 39 games since being acquired by the Wild.
“He hasn’t played in a month, new team in the heart of a playoff race against somebody that is trying to catch us,” Iginla said. “There was definitely pressure on him, but he looked great.”
The crowd of 18,217 that gave the Wild franchise its 400th consecutive sellout went quiet early when Bourque tipped in Matt Stajan’s slapshot from the blue-line only 19 seconds into the game. It was the quickest goal against the Wild at home in team history.
“We’re already chasing them there 19 seconds into the game,” Richards said.
The crowd groaned again later in the period when Giordano wristed a shot from the left circle past Backstrom after a nice feed from Iginla to make it 2-0.
But Minnesota pulled within a goal twice in the second period on Latendresse’s two scores.
The Wild cut the lead to 2-1 when Latendresse backhanded a pass from Martin Havlat past Toskala at the 9:53 mark. Then, after Iginla’s second-period goal, Brent Burns’ long pass found Latendresse ahead of all Calgary’s defenders on a breakaway. Latendresse slapped the puck from the left circle to beat Toskala and pull Minnesota to 3-2.
NOTES: No other player has more than one hat trick against Minnesota. … Toskala became the first Flames goalie other than Kiprusoff to start for Calgary against Minnesota since current Flames goalie coach Jamie McLennan. McLennan last started against the Wild on Nov. 7, 2003. Kiprusoff had started all 37 games versus the Wild since arriving in Calgary. … Calgary scored at least three goals in back-to-back games for the fifth time this season. … Latendresse has 14 goals at home for Minnesota this season. Only four players have scored more at home – Marian Gaborik had 28 in 2007-08 and Owen Nolan had 20 last season.