CALGARY – A timely visit from the struggling and undisciplined Colorado Avalanche was just what the Calgary Flames needed to get their playoff push back on track.
Captain Jarome Iginla led the way with a pair of goals as the Flames cruised to a 5-2 win over the Avalanche on Thursday.
Iginla scored one of his goals on a two-man advantage at 3:51 of the first period. With the Flames still a man up, Mark Giordano made it 2-0 just 24 seconds later.
“I thought right from the start we had our tempo up and we were able to draw the penalties,” Iginla said. “Fortunately we were able to get one and then get Gio’s goal right afterwards. That was huge.”
Rene Bourque and Alex Kotalik had a goal and an assist each for the Flames (37-27-9), who snapped a three-game losing streak to move back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With Brendan Morrison and David Moss out of the lineup due to injury, the Flames recalled Kotalik from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. In 18 games with the Heat, Kotalik had four goals and 15 assists.
“I’m glad to be back,” Kotalik said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team. I feel better. I was trying to bring it up here and I’m glad I was able to contribute in this win.”
Kotalik’s return gave the Flames a boost.
“Guys were definitely happy to see him back,” Iginla said. “He’s been through a lot. He had a great game. He hit a crossbar and he could have had another few. It’s great to see for him and also for the team.”
Mark Olver and Cody McLeod for the Avalanche (26-36-8), which has lost 10 straight games and has gone 2-20-2 since Jan. 18. Matt Duchene had two assists.
“Tonight they wanted it,” Olver said. “They came out strong, they came out hard. They took advantage of their power plays.”
Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 27 shots for his 33rd win of the season, while Colorado netminder Peter Budaj made 23 saves.
Iginla opened the scoring in the first when he fired a wicked one-timer past Budaj, who had no chance on the play. Giordano then cut into the slot and lost control of the puck before spinning and sliding a shot through Budaj’s legs.
The Avs cut the deficit to one when Olver scored his first NHL goal. Olver took a pass from Matt Duchene, cut in front of the Calgary net and made a quick move to his backhand before roofing a shot over Kiprusoff’s left pad.
“When you’re a little kid you dream of your first NHL goal,” said Olver. “After a loss like that, you sure wish it was after better circumstances, but that’s the way she goes sometimes so we’ve just got to rebound for Saturday (in Edmonton against the Oilers).”
With just 18.7 seconds left in the opening frame, Bourque fired a perfect shot into the top corner, short side behind Budaj to put the Flames back up by two goals.
“We came back, we made it 2-1, we started to play better and that was a tough goal to give up in the last minute of the first period,” said Colorado coach Joe Sacco.
Kotalik, who had just three goals in 20 games with the Flames before being sent to the minors, tapped in a cross-crease pass from Niklas Hagman to put Calgary up 4-0 at 4:36 of the third.
Iginla converted a feed from Glencross two minutes later to put the game away. With the goal, Iginla moved into a tie with Alexander Mogilny and Denis Savard for 49th all-time among NHL goal scorers with 473 each.
“To be honest I didn’t know that,” Iginla said. “My second year I went through some tough scoring times and I wondered if maybe I wasn’t going to be a scorer in the NHL. I’ve definitely been extremely blessed. Back then I never would have thought that. I hope to score a lot more, but that’s pretty neat and I’m definitely thankful.”
McLeod then scored during a two-man advantage for the Avs with just 5.6 seconds left in the game.
Notes: The Flames have an all-time record of 9-5-2 in games played on St. Patrick’s Day, including a 3-2 win in Denver over the Avs last season.…Heading into the New Year’s Eve game in Calgary against the Avs, Kiprusoff had a 14-16-1 record. Since that time he’s compiled a 19-6-4 record to get the Flames back into playoff contention.…Flames’forward Mikael Backlund celebrated his 22nd birthday by drawing an assist on Bourque’s goal.
Note to readers: Note to readers: This is a corrected story. The previous version incorrectly had Olver’s first name as Darren instead of Mark.