CALGARY – Jarome Iginla snapped out of his longest scoring slump in eight seasons at the perfect time and prevented the Calgary Flames from falling behind in the Western Conference playoff race.
Iginla tied the game with nine seconds left then scored the shootout-winner as the Flames overcame a 3-0 third-period deficit to win 4-3 over the Phoenix Coyotes in a thriller Tuesday night.
With goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff pulled for an extra attacker, Robyn Regehr set up Iginla in the slot and he snapped his 33rd goal of the season into the top corner over the blocker of Ilya Bryzgalov, sending the sell-out crowd of 19,289 into a frenzy.
“I was sure happy to see it go in for a number of reasons,” said Iginla, who after scoring 32 goals in the first 43 games had gone 10 games without a goal for the first time since December 1999. “I was just trying to turn around and shoot it and that’s the way it goes sometimes. You’re just trying to put it to the net. The ones you don’t expect to, they go in sometimes. That sure felt good to see that go in”.
Moments later, the volume in the Pengrowth Saddledome got even louder when Iginla, the third Calgary shooter, scored on a nifty deke to his backhand to put the Flames into the shootout lead. Steve Reinprecht missed the net on Phoenix’s final attempt.
Dion Phaneuf scored the other two regulation goals for Calgary (26-20-8). Seconds away from a loss that would have dropped them into ninth and out of a playoff spot, the Flames move up into sixth place in the competitive Western Conference.
“A huge win and a great comeback win, you have to acknowledge that as well. It showed some resolve which we can build upon,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan.
Nineteen-year-old rookie Peter Mueller had all three goals for Phoenix (29-22-3).
“It’s bittersweet,” said Mueller. “It’s always nice when your line puts a few points up but right now, those two points for the team are the biggest thing on our minds right now”.
Phoenix blew a chance to move past Calgary and ended up falling into ninth spot themselves. The Coyotes finished 2-1-2 on their five-game road trip.
“It’s a real tough one to explain,” said Mueller describing the third period collapse. “They came out hard and we kinda stood back a little bit. We needed to come out and play that last 20 minutes just as hard as we played the first forty”.
Calgary finally got on the scoreboard at 7:01 of the third period when Phaneuf converted an Alex Tanguay pass on a power play.
The goal ended a stretch of 141 minutes and 24 seconds since the last Flames goal, a Langkow second-period marker in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
“That feels really good as a team,” Iginla said. “Actually weren’t that bad off the start, just a couple of major breakdowns. Going into the third, we stayed positive thinking that if we could just get one goal…”
The Flames drew to within one on Phaneuf’s second of the night. As he prepared to unload one of his patented slapshots, his stick broke and sent the puck slowly along the ice where it fooled Bryzgalov, trickling between his legs.
“We stopped playing the way we’re capable of playing and we let them back in it,” said Phoenix captain Shane Doan. “We played well enough to win the game and we dropped the ball in the third period.”
Overtime was highlighted by a close call at each end of the ice just seconds apart in the final minute. Anders Eriksson’s slap shot squeaked through the pads of Bryzgalov and was almost across the line when Ed Jovanovski cleared it away. Reinprecht ended up with the puck and tore away on a 150-foot breakaway only to have his shot from close-in smothered by Kiprusoff.
Mueller, who was named the NHL rookie of the month for January, kept up his impressive play of late notching a goal 23 seconds into the game and adding two more in the second period as Phoenix appeared to be in control.
His third goal and 19th of the season came when he snapped a Joel Perrault pass past Kiprusoff from the slot with 1:05 left in the second period.
Mueller’s second goal at 10:51 of the second was a deflating one for the Flames. Calgary had carried the play for much of the first half of the second period, running up a 16-6 edge on the shot clock, but could not get the tying goal past Bryzgalov.
Iginla also earned a loud ovation when he got involved in spirited fight with Jovanovski, who many at the Pengrowth Saddledome remember from when he played for arch rival Vancouver. Fans rose to their feet to salute Iginla after he ended the fight by knocking Jovanovski to the ice.
Notes: Phoenix leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata (ankle) was unable to play. Vrbata had the overtime goal in Monday’s 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Taking his spot was RW Bill Thomas, who was recalled earlier in the day from San Antonio (AHL)… Included in Calgary’s three line-up changes after their 5-0 loss to Edmonton Monday night was the return of veteran LW Marcus Nilson, who finally appeared in his 500th NHL game. Nilson had been a healthy scratch the seven previous games. Also back in uniform was D Anders Eriksson taking Rhett Warrener’s spot… Calgary RW Eric Godard did not play after receiving an automatic one game suspension for receiving his third game misconduct on Monday.