CALGARY – The Calgary Flames have been getting contributions from just about everyone this season.
Tuesday night, it was finally the captain’s turn. Jarome Iginla broke out of an extended scoring slump with a goal and two assists as the red-hot Calgary Flames earned a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was the first multi-point game of the season for the struggling forward, whose four points entering the night had him well down on the Calgary scoring list, even with fourth-liners Brandon Prust and Eric Nystrom.
But the Flames (6-2-1) have been winning even without Iginla’s offence – and that’s all that matters to him.
“(Tuesday’s result was) nice, but it’s been a fun start,” Iginla said. “It’s still been a really enjoyable October. As a team, it feels like we have a lot of good things going and it feels like we can still get better.”
Playing his second consecutive game on a line centred by Craig Conroy, the two reunited linemates combined to set up first-period goals by Curtis Glencross and Jay Bouwmeester as Calgary took a 3-1 lead.
With the Flames leading 4-3 in the third period, Iginla gave Calgary some breathing room at 12:46, snapping a shot from the face-off dot into the top corner past goaltender Steve Mason.
“I look at the shots and the quality scoring chances he had and tonight was his best game,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter.
The Flames salted the game away on a spectacular goal from Fredrik Sjostrom.
The off-season acquisition took a pass behind his back, pulled the puck up to his forehand and, despite being hooked off balance on his breakaway, spun around and curled the puck inside the far post from a sharp angle for his first goal as a Flame.
“That was one of my better ones,” said Sjostrom. “It was just a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I was really excited to see that one go in, I’ve been waiting a long time.”
The goal was the talk of the Flames dressing room after the game.
“That was sick, heh? That was probably one of the best goals of the year so far,” Iginla said.
Daymond Langkow and Dion Phaneuf also scored for the Flames, who improved to 2-0 on a season-high five-game homestand.
Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek replied for the Blue Jackets (5-2-0), who kicked off their four-game road trip on a sour note.
Despite being outplayed for the entire period, Calgary broke a 3-3 tie at 13:44 of the second on Phaneuf’s team-leading fifth goal. After starting behind his own net, Phaneuf lugged the puck into the Columbus zone before snapping a long shot past Mason from just inside the blue-line.
“He just got a quick release off mid-stride and the puck kinda caught me off-guard a bit,” said Mason. “You look at that, we just tied the game up and then you let a goal in like that. It really takes a lot of energy out of the team.”
Columbus outshot the Flames 30-22.
“He struggled, he really struggled tonight,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said about his top goaltender. “The difference in the hockey game was when it was 3-3, (Miikka) Kiprusoff had to make six or seven great saves and then when it was 4-3, he had to make three or four unbelievable saves and he did it, and that’s what got them the two points.”
Nash was quick to defend Mason, who entered the night having given up just one goal in each of his previous two games.
“It was a tough one. Everyone’s going to have bad nights. He’s won us so many games single-handely and we didn’t give him much help tonight,” said Nash.
A key sequence in the game came early in the first period when the Flames, who led 2-0 at the time, received a two-man advantage for 1:23. But Calgary’s second-ranked power play couldn’t muster any offence against the Blue Jackets, owners of the top penalty-killing unit in the league.
Columbus actually did some damage of its own while down two men. Nash used a burst of speed to beat Phaneuf to a loose puck in the Flames zone and tuck his fourth goal of the season behind Kiprusoff, Nash’s second shorthanded marker in as many games.
Calgary restored its two-goal lead when Bouwmeester notched his first goal as a Flame at 11:24. That seemed to ignite the Blue Jackets, who didn’t allow another Calgary shot on goal for more than 21 minutes.
“Obviously when you give up a weak goal and you don’t have another shot for a while, you start thinking about it a little bit more but as part of the position, you have to play through that and I didn’t do a good job of that tonight,” Mason said.
Columbus converted its own two-man advantage 25 seconds into the second period. Brassard’s slapshot from the blue-line through an R.J. Umberger screen at 0:52 made it 3-2. Voracek scored 48 seconds later.
Notes: Calgary D Aaron Johnson made his Flames debut. Acquired in a Oct. 7 trade with Chicago, it was Johnson’s first game since April 12, the Blackhawks final game of the regular season last year. Johnson was a healthy scratch for all 17 of Chicago’s playoff games last year and had to make an appearance this year. … Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Nash has 11 shorthanded goals, second most in the NHL behind Philadelphia’s Mike Richards (12). … Columbus D Mike Commmodore (groin) is back practising and is expected back in the line-up soon… The Blue Jackets had been a perfect 3-0 when giving up the first goal of the game.