CALGARY – Calgary’s slumbering offence finally awoke Monday night and moved the Flames within a win of the Northwest Division title.
Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist to lead the Flames to a pivotal 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Calgary moved two points ahead of Vancouver in the race for first place in the Northwest Division and can clinch top spot on Tuesday with a win in regulation over the Canucks at GM Place.
“This is what you play for,” said Iginla. “All season, you talk about the division and now we have the opportunity. It’s just one game. We’re looking forward to it and we feel in back-to-backs, we’re due for a lot better performance too.”
The slumping Flames entered the night with four losses in its last six games, having scored just six goals over that span”.
Vancouver had taken advantage by moving past the Flames. Heading into last weekend, it looked like Vancouver was about lock up the division and home ice advantage in the playoffs.
However, the Canucks lost Saturday night in Edmonton then returned home and lost again Sunday night to Colorado. Suddenly, with three games left each, the Flames are back in control.
“It’s really exciting. It makes tomorrow’s game, for our team, absolutely huge and for me personally, probably the biggest game I’ve played in my NHL career,” said Calgary winger Mike Cammalleri.
The Flames leading goal scorer with 36 goals, Cammalleri entered the night without a point in his previous six games.
However, after helping set up Daymond Langkow’s goal 2:05 into the second period, he showed his playmaking ability again later in the period neatly setting up Iginla’s one-timer at 16:38 that gave Calgary a 2-1 lead.
“(Cammalleri) was carrying it all night, he was creating things out of the corner, drawing penalties, he almost drew a penalty every time he had the puck down low,” said Iginla.
David Moss and Jim Vandermeer, with his first goal in 75 games, also scored for Calgary (45-28-6).
Wayne Simmonds scored the lone goal for Los Angeles (32-36-11).
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, Calgary outshot Los Angeles 19-5 in the decisive second period.
“We were just really lackadaisical, we came out and played individual hockey and that’s not how you can play in this league,” said Simmonds. “You play individually and that’s what happens, you get burned.”
The Kings three-game Western Canadian road trip continues Tuesday night in Edmonton in a must-win game for the Oilers.
“These are playoff games for us as well as for Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton, because this is as close as we’re going to get,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “We need to be a lot more excited and hungry as a team. It was disappointing tonight.”
Calgary opened up some breathing room in the third period, going ahead 3-1 on a rare goal from Vandermeer, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 24, 2008. The veteran defenceman mishandled the puck in front of the Los Angeles net, but it was knocked in by the stick of trailing Kings defenceman Jack Johnson.
Moss rounded out the scoring at 10:46, finally getting his 20th goal of the season. Entering the night without a goal in his last 15 games, Moss swooped in off the right wing and made a neat move to his backhand to beat Ersberg.
“You never want to feel like you’re completely struggling going into the playoffs so to get that out of the way, hopefully I can keep it going now heading into the playoffs,” said Moss.
Trailing 1-0, Los Angeles tied it at 10:47 of the second when Michal Handzus won a face-off back to Simmonds who sent a snap shot past Miikka Kiprusoff.
If would be the lone goal the Flames netminder would surrender on 24 shots, improving his record to 45-22-5.
Ersberg was peppered for 38 shots in seeing his record fall to 8-11-5.
In a mostly uneventful and scoreless first period, the best chance for either team belonged to Calgary, which had a 64 second two-man advantage.
However, Calgary’s slumping power play could not capitalize. Entering the night on an 0-for-25 skid with the extra man, the Flames did not generate a single shot on goal.
The Flames finished 0-for-6 with the extra man, also failing to score on a 1:33 two-man advantage in the third period.
For the second game in a row, Calgary did not dress a full line-up going with just 17 skaters. Pressed up against the NHL salary cap, the Flames have been unable to recall enough players to replaced their current injuries.
Notes: Flames defenceman Matt Pelech had an assist for his first NHL point… Los Angeles forward Justin Williams played in his 500th NHL game… Calgary sweeps the season series 4-0-0 and has won ten of its last 11 meetings with the Kings… Calgary has not won consecutive games on home ice since Feb. 24 and 27… Calgary’s Olli Jokinen has no goals in his last 10 games while Todd Bertuzzi has just one goal in his last 14 games… Calgary’s record in the back end of back-to-back games is 2-9-1.