CALGARY – Calgary winger Eric Nystrom doesn’t score often, but luckily for the Flames he was the right place at the right time Wednesday night.
Taking advantage of a Dallas turnover, Nystrom scored the go-ahead goal at 11:46 of the third period while Miikka Kiprusoff earned his 200th win as the Flames beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 in a pivotal game for both teams in the Western Conference playoff race.
Rookie Flames centre Warren Peters pressured Fabian Brunnstrom into coughing up the puck in his own zone. As the puck slid towards the blue-line, Dustin Boyd alertly reached out, keeping the puck onside and sweeping it to Nystrom breaking towards the net.
Nystrom moved in and fired a shot that just squeezed under Marty Turco’s arm igniting a roar from the sell-out of crowd of 19,289.
“My eyes were as huge as basketballs there. I had a whole head of steam, I knew if he could get it to me I’d be in pretty much all alone,” said Nystrom. “I just tried getting the shot away quick and surprise him, snuck it between his pads and it felt pretty good.”
It was Nystrom’s fourth goal of the season and first in 14 games.
“It’s always the unexpected player that comes through in playoff hockey. That’s what makes the playoffs so exciting, when you see players that don’t play much, have big roles or play important parts in games,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan.
Brunnstrom accepted full blame for the goal.
“I lost my balance a little bit and I was trying to pass to the other side but I just missed the puck and it became a bad pass,” said Brunnstrom, who was returning to the line-up after missing four games with a shoulder injury. “I would try to make a harder pass next time or hang onto it”.
Jamie Lundmark also scored for Calgary (41-23-6).
The Flames increased their Northwest Division lead over hard-charging Vancouver to five points. While Calgary was going 3-4 on its seven-game road trip, the Canucks had whittled the Flames lead from eight points down to three.
Vancouver has one game in hand.
Brendan Morrison scored the lone goal for Dallas (33-30-8). It was a tough loss for the Stars, who remained ninth in the Western Conference, one point behind eight-place Edmonton.
“It’s not good when you lose right now,” said Turco, who looked visibly disappointed after seeing his 29-save night go for naught. “At this time of year, the way things are… by winning, you’re not going to separate yourself but by losing you will. We’re not doing ourselves any favours and we’re going to need some to get in now.”
The Stars, who lost 4-2 Tuesday night in Vancouver, wrap up their road trip in San Jose on Saturday night.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and that’s why it’s so disheartening back to back nights to not get any points,” said Turco. “We’ve got to throw the hammer down and start winning hockey games, there’s no other way to look at it for us.”
Kiprusoff had surrendered 19 goals in his previous four starts, getting pulled by coach Mike Keenan in two of them.
“We stressed defence the last couple of days and we came out and held them to one goal, it’s great for us,” said Lundmark. “It’s great being back in the Saddledome and we’ll get on a little roll here with a couple more games at home.”
Trailing 1-0, Calgary tied it at 5:39 of the second period as Lundmark converted a two-on-one set up by a nifty give-and-go between Daymond Langkow and Boyd”.
Lundmark was recalled from Quad Cities (AHL) on Feb. 19 when Flames forward Rene Bourque injured his ankle. The 28-year-old journeyman has had a productive month, racking up five goals and four assists in 12 games.
After an uneventful first period, Dallas opened the scoring 1:10 into the second when Morrison flipped a backhander past Kiprusoff.
It was the second goal in eight games for Morrison since being picked up on waivers Mar. 4 from the Anaheim Ducks. Morrison has always had enjoyed offensive success against the Flames with 18 goals in 48 career games against Calgary.
In his home ice debut, Calgary’s Olli Jokinen had a few dangerous chances but did not pick up a point. Jokinen had six goals and two assists in his three previous games to earn NHL second star of the week honours for last week.
Notes: Injuries Tuesday night in Vancouver to forwards Mike Modano (lower body) and Steve Begin (upper body) created openings for Mark Parrish (head, 3 games) and Fabian Brunnstrom (shoulder, 4 games) to return from injury… Also absent for the Stars missing his first game was RW Krystofer Barch, which leaves Mike Ribeiro and Trevor Daley as the only two Stars that have played in all 71 games… Prior to the game, Jarome Iginla was awarded a silver stick to commemorative of becoming the Flames all-time leading point scorer, which happened on March 1… Langkow is one point away from 600 career points… The Flames improve to 7-0-0 in games after three or more days off.