COLUMBUS, Ohio – Backup goalie Fredrik Norrena helped preserve Columbus’ slim playoff hopes.
Norrena made 18 saves for his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career and the Blue Jackets beat the Calgary Flames 3-0 Tuesday night for their second straight win.
“He was really sound,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “The thing that was impressive for me was the no rebounds.”
Norrena – who had a career-high 43 saves in a 4-3 win against Detroit on Sunday – started his second straight game for Pascal Leclaire, out with a concussion suffered in warmups before the Red Wings game.
“Today, the posts helped me and the team helped me,” Norrena said. “This was a different game then the last game against Detroit. Tonight we controlled the game and deserved to win.”
Manny Malhotra scored two goals for the second straight game and Rick Nash had a goal and two assists for Columbus, seven points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Dan Fritsche added two assists for the Blue Jackets, who have won three of four.
“We got back to the team game we need to play to win,” Hitchcock said. “We did a lot of things we were doing earlier this season when we were dominant in this building.”
The Flames could have pulled even with idle Minnesota for first place in the Northwest Division. Calgary, Colorado and Vancouver are tied in the division with 84 points, only four points ahead of eighth-place Nashville.
The Flames finished 1-3 on their four-game road trip and have three wins in seven games.
“It’s that last push to the end of the regular season,” said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who had his four-game points streak end. “Teams are raising their game, intensity and their physical play. This road trip we didn’t respond.”
Just 3:26 into the game, Nash took a long pass in stride from Fritsche, got by defenceman Dion Phaneuf and snapped a shot from the left circle that handcuffed goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who had 35 saves. The puck slid across the goal line for Nash’s 36th of the season.
“The guys stuck to the game plan,” Nash said. “We played defence first. It just shows what we’re capable of when we play the right way.”
With limited room to manoeuvre the entire game in a tight-checking affair, the Flames broke free and hit the post twice in 15 seconds just past the midway point of the second period.
Matthew Lombardi sent a loose puck in the slot after a drive to the net by Wayne Primeau. Then defenceman David Hale sent a shot through traffic that hit the post. Hale raised his arms and several players – including Norrena – stopped on the play thinking it was a goal, but Columbus defenceman Aaron Rome skated the puck away from the goal line.
Malhotra scored his first of the game from the left circle, one-timing a pass from Nash near the goal line to the right of Kiprusoff at 5:30 of the third period to make it 2-0 with a low shot.
Only 1:11 later, the Blue Jackets kept possession in the Flames’ zone and Fritsche spun off a check behind the net. He passed to Malhotra – this time stationed at the right circle – for another quick shot that gave Columbus a 3-0 lead.
“I think those are just a result of being in the right place at the right time,” said Malhotra, who now has 10 goals on the season.
Tempers boiled over late, which included Columbus’ Jared Boll and Craig Conroy of Calgary fighting and each landing several heavy blows. A total of 42 penalty minutes were issued the last minute of regulation.
“We didn’t play very well,” Iginla said. “They came out from the start and played physical. They won more battles than we did. There’s no excuse from our side.”
Notes: Calgary LW Alex Tanguay missed the game due to a broken big toe, suffered Sunday against Chicago. … Nash has assisted on Malhotra’s past four goals. … Kiprusoff has made at least 30 saves in six straight starts. … Norrena is 3-0 in his career against Calgary.