CALGARY – With 10 goals in his last 10 game, Jarome Iginla’s stick is red-hot just when the Calgary Flames need him most.
Iginla notched his seventh career hat-trick Saturday night as Calgary won 5-4 over the Minnesota Wild in a key Northwest Division clash.
The Flames captain tied it 2-2 with 23 seconds left in the second, put the Flames ahead 50 seconds into the third period, then made it 4-2 on his 48th of the season at 6:47.
“It seems like everything that’s touching Iggy’s stick right now is going in, so I was trying to keep passing to him,” said Alex Tanguay, who set up the go-ahead goal, which gave the Flames a lead they would not relinquish.
Minnesota got a pair of goals later in the third from Kim Johnsson but Matthew Lombardi’s goal in-between at 18:18 proved to be the difference for the Flames.
Calgary moves to within one point of the Wild, who lead the division. The Flames hold one game in hand.
“A high-scoring game like that is a little out of the ordinary, but at this time of year, any style of game, you have to win it,” said Iginla.
“These are playoff-style games. We want to keep rolling and feeding off of these games, they’re big momentum boosts.”
Phaneuf also scored for Calgary (39-26-10). The Flames continue to play well on home ice improving to 6-0-2 in their last eight.
Also on the scoresheet was Benoit Pouliot, who scored his first two NHL goals for Minnesota (40-26-9). The Wild, who lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (3-1-4), wrap up a four-game road trip Monday in Edmonton.
“All the teams keep on winning, it’s pretty scary to watch, but if we keep winning there shouldn’t be a problem,” Pouliot said.
Iginla’s third of the night came when he wristed in a rebound past goaltender Josh Harding after Phaneuf’s shot from the blue-line hit a crowd in front.
The game was delayed for a few minutes as the numerous hats that showered down onto the ice were collected. Shortly after the game resumed, the Pengrowth Saddledome sell-out crowd of 19,289 broke into chants of “MVP, MVP” in salute to Iginla.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire was unhappy with the amount of room Iginla had to operate most of the night.
“When he’s around the net, he’s dangerous, you have to check him,” Lemaire said.
“We let him go to the net alone, he gets a rebound, he puts it in. On another goal, he gets a rebound, he puts it in. The other time, he’s right in front of the net and nobody makes an effort to go and check him. I guess they don’t know that he’s got 48 goals.”
Trailing 2-1, Calgary tied it 1:13 after Pouliot’s second goal had given Minnesota its first lead of the night. On a pretty set up from Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Pouliot fired a shot from 25 feet out that caromed in off the goal post.
“I’d rather have the two points,” said Pouliot. “Especially against that team, they’re chasing us and are right behind us.”
After a scoreless first period, Calgary took a 1-0 lead three minutes into the second on a highlight-reel short-handed effort by Phaneuf.
Picking up a loose puck deep in his own end, Phaneuf weaved his way up the ice fending off the checks and into the Minnesota zone. As Phaneuf burst around Brent Burns and towards the net, he slid with just his right hand on his stick, and somehow managed to flip the puck over Josh Harding’s pad before sliding himself into the end boards.
“It was beautiful,” said Tanguay. “He’s got such great speed. He’s strong on his skates, guys were hooking him; I don’t know if he practised that one-handed shot but it was sure pretty to watch.”
Kiprusoff made 29 saves for Calgary.
With Niklas Backstrom getting the night off, Harding made 26 stops in his first action in eight games.
The importance of the game was reflected in the emotions of the two sides in the early going with Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard and Calgary’s Eric Godard dropping the gloves 4:56 into the game and former Flame Chris Simon and defenceman Jim Vandermeer following suit just 11 seconds later.
“Right off the bat, Calgary came out hitting,” Pouliot said. ” We put our tough guys out there and two pretty good fights, four big guys going at it. It was pretty fun and exciting to watchand the hitting continued for the whole game.”
Notes : Calgary C Mark Smith left the game in the second period after having his bell rung… Minnesota RW Mark Parrish was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row… It was Phaneuf’s first career shorthanded goal. ….Minnesota wrapped up the last of 15 back-to-back games with a record of 9-4-2 in the second game. They were 9-5-1 in the first game… After getting a season-low 6:03 in ice time Thursday night versus Colorado, Calgary LW Kristian Huselius played just 6:32… Minnesota’s next road win will be its 20th of the season and would break the franchise record of 19 established in 2006-07.