CALGARY – It was far from the most difficult goal Jarome Iginla has scored this year, but it may have been his most important.
Iginla’s second goal of the night 3:49 into overtime gave the reeling Calgary Flames a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Enormous pressure deep in the Blue Jackets end was eventually finished off by the Flames captain, who was set up in the slot by Alex Tanguay and had an empty net to fire the puck into with Mathieu Garon trapped out of his net.
“To win a game that looked like it slipped away is big for us,” said Iginla, who is on an eight-game points streak (five goals, six assists). “This year, we haven’t been able to be as resilient and win those different games as we should and that we need to.”
After scoring only twice in the season’s first 15 games, Iginla has 12 goals in the past 16 games.
“I definitely feel a lot better,” Iginla said. “I was thinking a little bit too much and getting a little too hesitant, and not trying things, and then it looks like you’re not moving, then your work ethic falls a bit when you don’t mean for it too.”
Calgary led 2-0 less than five minutes into the game but saw the Blue Jackets battle back and eventually tie it.
After waiting over 55 minutes to receive its first power play of the night, Columbus took just 28 seconds to convert it and tie the score 2-2.
Kris Russell faked a shot and sent a pass to Rick Nash at the top of the face-off circle. The Blue Jackets captain snapped his 17th goal of the season into the top corner, over the shoulder of Miikka Kiprusoff.
Columbus pressed throughout the third period, generating several dangerous chances around the Flames net. However, when the puck wasn’t bouncing just over a stick or trickling wide, the Flames were bailed out by a shot off the post or a Kiprusoff save.
“It’s tough to swallow but we’ll look at it as a good point,” said Nash. “We were down 2-0 after five minutes. To salvage a point out of it, it’s good. I felt we dominated that last half of he game, which was important for us.”
Brendan Morrison also scored for Calgary (13-15-3). The Flames return to action Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary will be attempting to win consecutive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak Oct. 22-26 that began with a 6-2 win in Columbus.
Vermette also scored for Columbus (16-11-2). The Blue Jackets are winless in their last four on the road after reeling off eight wins in their first nine games away from Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets, enjoying their best effort start to a season, continue their three-game Western Canadian road trip in Edmonton on Wednesday.
Trailing 2-0, Columbus got a short-handed goal at 18:45 of the second period to pull to within a goal.
Andrew Murray outhustled Tanguay to a puck deep in the Flames zone, chipping it around the Flames veteran forward. Murray then alertly slid a backhand pass to the onrushing Vermette who one-timed a hard slapshot past Kiprusoff.
“It was a dumb play,” said Tanguay, accepting the blame. “I took a look back and thought Kipper was out to play it, I didn’t get back very hard. Then I got into the corner and I just have to hit the guy.”
The game was just over two minutes old when Iginla took a cross-ice pass from Mikael Backlund and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of starting goaltender Steve Mason.
After Morrison’s first goal in 13 games increased the Flames lead to 2-0 at 4:25, Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel replaced Mason with Mathieu Garon.
“I just didn’t like either goal,” Arniel said. “Sometimes as a coach, you let the kid battle through it. I felt, tonight, I wanted to make that move because I really wanted to battle back in this game.”
The moved paid off. Garon was nearly perfect the rest of the way making 20 stops.
“He was definitely good,” said Nash. “I wouldn’t know but seems tough for a back-up goalie to come in that early mentally. I don’t think he’s too warm, didn’t get a lot of shots in warm-up. We’re happy to have him, he’d be the number one goalie on a lot of teams.”
Notes: The Flames began a stretch of five consecutive games against opponents currently not in a playoff spot… Calgary hasgone 22 games without recording consecutive wins, its longest such slump since the 2002-03 season when the Flames went 26 games from Nov. 7 to Jan. 2 without recording back-to-back victories… Calgary C Matt Stajan was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row… Columbus RW Rick Nash remains one assist away from tying David Vyborny (204) for top spot on the Blue Jackets’ all-time list. Nash already owns top spot in goals (243) and points (446).