CALGARY – Jarome Iginla is catching fire at just the right time for Canada’s Olympic hockey team.
Iginla scored twice Saturday night to lead the Calgary Flames to a much needed 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Iginla heads into the Olympic break with six goals in his last 10, which comes on the heels of a 15-game stretch in which the Flames captain scored just once.
“We had a lot of shots and we had a lot of quality scoring chances,” said Iginla, who leads the team with 27 goals. “It’s a good way to go into the break.”
Both goals came against Jonas Hiller, who Iginla will face Thursday night when Canada plays Switzerland.
“Nobody on our team played to their best level – me included,” said Hiller. “I could have stopped at least one of the goals that they scored.”
Eric Nystrom also scored for Calgary (30-23-9), which is clinging to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Flames are even in points with seventh place Nashville but the Predators hold two games in hand. Tied for ninth, one point back of the Flames, are Dallas and Detroit.
Troy Bodie scored the lone goal for Anaheim (29-25-7). The Ducks are tied with St. Louis, four points back of the Flames.
Anaheim finishes off it’s pre-Olympic schedule Sunday with a game in Edmonton.
Iginla gave Calgary it’s first lead at 2:42 of the second period, wiring a one-timer past Hiller on a pretty cross-ice pass from Curtis Glencross.
The Flames went ahead 3-1 at 13:58 of the second on a two-on-one. Moving in with Niklas Hagman, Iginla faked a pass and snapped a low shot through Hiller’s legs.
Iginla was on the ice in the final minute of the game with Anaheim’s net empty. But despite the encouragement of the sell-out crowd of 19,289 that started chanting “Iggy, Iggy”, he could not complete the hat trick.
“Our captain obviously contributed big here tonight,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter.
Miikka Kiprusoff heads to the Olympics to represent Team Finland on a high, making 26 saves for the win.
The 33-year-old has been Calgary’s steadiest performer all season. In 12 starts since surrendering six goals in two periods and getting pulled against San Jose on Jan. 18, Kiprusoff has a 1.90 goals against average. However, the lack of offensive support has resulted in him chalking up just four victories in that span.
“Tonight was good and I think we had a chance to score more too,” said Kiprusoff. “We have to keep pushing that type of play and the goals will come for sure.”
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was disappointed with the lack of traffic his team generated in front of Kiprusoff.
“Anytime you’re not in the goalie’s face and screening him and getting those second and third opportunities, then he’s having an easy night,” Carlyle said. “You’re not going to score on many NHL goalies from the blue-line if he can see the puck all the time.”
Hiller made 35 stops for Anaheim.
Trailing 1-0, Calgary tied the game at 16:42 on the sixth goal of the season for Nystrom, who had not scored in 43 games dating back to Nov. 14.
Carrying the puck down the right wing, it appeared Nystrom was going to carry the puck behind the net when he cut in at the last second and jammed the puck past Hiller.
“The best feeling in the world,” said Nystrom. “Honestly, when you see that puck in the back of the net after a long drought. It’s a great feeling.”
Iginla said that goal gave the Flames bench a big lift.
“To get a nice goal like that too, a very confident play driving to the net, beating the guy one-on-one. You could just see the relief on his face, definitely a big boost for our team,” said Iginla.
Nystrom’s slump has been a microcosm of the team’s offensive struggles in recent months. Calgary entered the night having scored either one goal or no goals in eight of their previous 16 games, a stretch in which the Flames won just three times.
“We have to be capable to win 1-0 but you can’t try to win 1-0,” said Iginla. “You have to apply pressure and all the way around, every line felt like it was creating more and we need that.”
The Flames struggles at home has been a significant point of concern. Calgary is 3-7-1 in last 11 games at the Pengrowth Saddledome with the three victories all coming against non-playoff positioned teams – Edmonton and Carolina the previous two victims.
“Getting a win at home was so important because we’ve struggled here,” said Nystrom. “We’ve been in a lot of games where we haven’t been able to get those goals.”
Anaheim opened the scoring at 12:25 on Bodie deflection of Scott Niedermayer’s point shot.
Notes: Calgary activated LW Nigel Dawes and RW David Moss off injured reserve and they played together on a line centred by rookie Mikael Backlund. In the midst of long slumps when they got injured, Dawes has gone 18 games without a goal. Moss has one goal in his last 22 games, which is also his only point over that span. . . Other changes to the Flames roster included the departure of Jamie Lundmark, who was claimed off waivers on Saturday by Toronto and LW Rene Bourque being placed on injured reserve. . . Calgary LW Dustin Boyd was a healthy scratch.