CALGARY – Ryan Wilson’s first career NHL points fittingly came against the team that traded him away.
Originally signed as a free agent by Calgary on July 1, 2008, Wilson was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche last March along with forward Lawrence Nycholat and a draft pick for defenceman Jordan Leopold.
Now in his rookie season with the Avalanche, Wilson scored once and set up another goal to lead the Avalanche (13-5-3) to a 3-2 win over the Flames (12-5-2) on Tuesday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“I didn’t really play with them but it’s always nice to score on your old team or old organization,” said Wilson, who spent last season playing for the AHL’s Quad City Flames and then the Lake Erie Monsters after the trade. “I’m just happy to get the win and to score my first goal in a winning game. Certainly I’ll remember this one but I have to keep playing this way and hopefully this little streak I’m on continues.”
Milan Hejduk scored the game-winning goal on a power play for the Avalanche, who moved three points ahead of the Flames in the battle for top spot in the Northwest Division. Cody McLeod also scored, while Paul Stastny chipped in with a pair of assists.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla continued his hot streak with his 12th goal of the season, and eighth in his past seven games. Rene Bourque also scored for the Flames, who had earned points in six straight games prior to Tuesday’s setback.
While Colorado goalie Craig Anderson stopped 34 of 36 shots he faced, the Avalanche defence also blocked 24 more shots to keep Calgary’s offence off balance.
“Their D seemed to get in front of every shot,” said Bourque, recalling that the Avs employed similar tactics when they beat the Flames 3-2 at the Saddledome on Oct. 28. “The last time we played them, same thing. They did a good job of taking our space away and they got big in front of you.”
Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made 21 saves as he lost in regulation for the first time in November.
Aided by an early power play, the Flames fired the first six shots of the game on net but couldn’t get one past Anderson.
The Avalanche then bounced back to fire seven straight shots at Kiprusoff, scoring on one. After Kiprusoff made two straight pad saves on shots by Colorado forward Wojtek Wolski, Wilson crept in off the point and picked up a loose puck in the slot before backhanding a shot into the Calgary net.
“The puck was in there for a while and I think everyone just got tied up and the puck squirted loose,” Wilson said. “The goalie was down so I moved to the side and put it in there.”
At 11:39 mark of the second period, Curtis Glencross spotted Iginla wide open in the high slot and fed him a perfect pass that the Calgary captain one-timed into the top corner past Anderson.
Less than six minutes later, with the Avalanche enjoying a man advantage, Bourque snapped a shot into the top corner over Anderson’s outstretched glove to put Calgary up 2-1.
Prior to the play, Avalanche defenceman Kyle Quincy broke his stick when he took a slap shot from the point. Dustin Boyd alertly picked up the puck and sent it to Jay Bouwmeester, who feathered a great cross-ice pass to Bourque on the left wing in the Colorado zone.
Only 42 seconds after Bourque’s goal, McLeod converted a feed from Stastny past Kiprusoff to tie the game at 2-2. Wilson also recorded an assist on the play to double his point production to four points on the season.
“That second goal was a terrible goal to give up,” said Calgary head coach Brent Sutter. “You get up 2-1 and you’ve got to really clamp down and do it the right way.”
The scoring outburst continued 66 seconds later when Hejduk attempted to hit Darcy Tucker with a cross-crease pass while the Avs were on another power play. The puck deflected off of Bouwmeester’s skate instead and behind Kiprusoff to give Hejduk his eighth goal of the season.
“It’s easy to get down, but we didn’t,” said Colorado coach Joe Sacco. “We came right back.”
The Flames pushed hard to tie the game in the third, but Anderson preserved the victory when he made a nice pad save on a point-blank shot by Olli Jokinen with three minutes left in the game.
“I’m there for my teammates,” Anderson said. “There’s going to be breakdowns, you’ve got to make the save for that and keep the score 3-2.”
NOTES: Glencross returned to Calgary’s lineup after missing three games due to a suspension for a hit on Chris Drury of the New York Rangers during a 3-1 win for the Flames at home on Nov. 7. a It was only the fifth time in 19 contests that the Flames failed to score the first goal of the game this season. a Colorado played without injured defencemen John-Michael Liles (shoulder) and Ruslan Salei (back). Forward T.J. Galiardi, who suffered an ankle injury the last time the two team’s played back on Oct. 28 in Calgary, also missed the contest.