CALGARY – On a night filled with power plays, Matthew Lombardi’s even strength goal was the difference.
Lombardi’s first goal of the season 2:42 into the second period stood as the game-winner Tuesday night as the Calgary Flames earned a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
The sequence began back in the Flames end when Adrian Aucoin dropped to his knees to block a hard slapshot from Washington defenceman Mike Green.
The Flames collected the loose puck and headed back up the ice, where Dustin Boyd dropped the puck into the slot for Lombardi, who whipped a wrist shot into the top corner past goaltender Jose Theodore.
“Boyd made a good heads-up play, (Marc Giordano) was driving the net and that opened up a lane for me and I just tried to get it off as quick as I could and it found the back of the net,” said Lombardi.
It was third time lucky for Lombardi who, in the first period, had been thwarted twice by Theodore on great scoring chances from close-in.
Jarome Iginla also scored for Calgary (2-3-1). It was the Flames’ first victory over Washington in nine tries dating back to Mar. 13, 1999. They had tied two and lost six games during that span.
Sergei Fedorov scored for Washington (3-2-1), which lost in regulation for the first time since the season opener. Fedorov’s goal was No. 473 of his career, tying him with Alexander Mogilny for most career NHL goals by a Russian-born player.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 30 saves for the Flames, the first time in six starts he’s surrendered less than three goals.
“It was my strongest game, I just have to keep it up,” Kiprusoff said. “This game will give our team confidence. They are a great offensive game and we were able to play pretty good defence against them.”
Kiprusoff’s biggest stop may have been a pad save on Alexander Semin from the side of the net early in the third period, preserving the Flames’ one-goal lead.
“A very sharp goaltender tonight, very, very sharp. That looked like Miikka tonight,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan.
It was no ordinary night in front of sell-out crowd of 19,289 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Included in the unusual evening was a nine-minute power-play given to Washington in the first period followed by four straight two-man advantages awarded to the Flames.
It was on the third of those two-man opportunities that Calgary finally got on the scoreboard.
One minute into the second period, Iginla intercepted Shaone Morrisonn’s clearing attempt and rifled a slapshot that Theodore could only get a piece of and the puck trickled through his pads and just over the goal-line.
The intrigue began seven minutes into the first period when Washington defenceman Tyler Sloan levelled Calgary centre Daymond Langkow with a clean bodycheck at the Capitals’ blue-line.
Sloan, 27, playing just his third NHL shift, was immediately tackled by Calgary’s Rene Bourque who then pummelled him while he was down on the ice.
“I expected that after a hit like that, they were going to come after me,” Sloan said.
Out of that altercation, Sloan was not penalized while Bourque was handed 19 minutes in penalties – minors for unsportsmanlike conduct and instigating, a fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct.
Instead, momentum swung back in Calgary’s favour, limiting Washington to just three harmless shots on goal for the entire man advantage. A Michael Nylander holding penalty cut into the Capitals’ power-play time.
“That set the rest of the game up for us,” said Lombardi, one of the Flames penalty killers. “We were down 1-0, if we let those guys get a couple more goals, it’s a hard climb from there. But we really stuck together during that one, it was a big team effort.”
Seeing nine minutes go on the scoreboard clock was not something players on either team could recall seeing before.
“It was the first time I’ve ever had a nine-minute power-play and we had only one chance in those nine minutes and it can’t be like that,” said Washington right-winger Alexander Ovechkin.
“Our big mistake was we tried to play too fancy. We can do some nice moves, nice passes, a beautiful game, but as they say, it’s about hard work.”
Washington opened the scoring 4:21 into the game when Fedorov, battling Giordano in front of the Flames net, neatly deflected in Jeff Schultz’s slapshot from the blue-line.
Notes: Sloan made his NHL debut after 406 games in the minors. A Calgary native, Sloan’s brother and parents were among the friends and family in the crowd. Ironically, Sloan’s father Fred had just flown back after having driven 36 hours from Calgary to Hershey, Pa. on the weekend to drop off Tyler’s car and watch him play in an AHL game. Instead, Sloan got recalled by Washington to join the Capitals in Calgary… Semin’s five-game points streak came to an end… Calgary C Daymond Langkow (+1) and RW Andre Roy (+1) entered the night as the only Flames in positive figures in plus-minus. .. Washington LW Donald Brashear returned to the line-up after missing two games with an injured hand… Calgary’s last win on home ice versus Washington was Mar. 26, 1998.