CALGARY - The Calgary Flames tried, tried and tried again before finally notching the game-deciding goal in a 3-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Eric Nystrom potted the eventual winner, but only after a pair of apparent power-play goals by Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross were waived off by referee Eric Furlatt.
"The first one looked like it was pretty legit, but at the same time the referee doesn't get to look at the scoreboard and see the instant replay so he is just going with what he sees on the ice," said Nystrom.
"Things happen so fast out there that they just make the call and they can't reverse their own call. That's what's tough about being a referee."
Jamie Lundmark had a goal and an assist for the Flames (43-26-2), Daymond Langkow also scored, while goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was only forced to make just 13 saves for his league-leading 43rd win of the season.
Andrew Brunette and James Sheppard scored for Minnesota (35-32-8), which is three points behind both the Edmonton Oilers and the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff berth in the NHL's Western Conference. The Wild will play the Oilers in Edmonton on Sunday night.
"We're supposed to be fighting for our lives here to get into the playoffs and it's just not a good effort tonight," said Wild forward Owen Nolan.
Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom kept his team in the game as he made 37 saves, including 18 in the first period when the Wild were outshot 20-5.
"In hockey, you never give up," said Backstrom, who has confidence the Wild can bounce back with a better effort against the Oilers. "You go out there and you battle until the buzzer or until someone says the season is over. Until then you fight."
With the score tied 2-2 in the second, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck took a rare clipping penalty. On the ensuing power play, the Flames appeared to pull ahead when Olli Jokinen slapped a shot past Backstrom, but Furlatt immediately waived off the goal, claiming that Calgary forward Curtis Glencross impeded with Backstrom in the crease.
"We looked at it after and it was not in the crease," said Calgary coach Mike Keenan. "His foot was in the crease and then he moved it out. It was probably in the crease two seconds before the puck went in net and then out, so miss call."
The Flames then regained control of the puck during the same man advantage and Glencross appeared to score when he tipped a point shot by Jarome Iginla past Backstrom. Once again, Furlatt immediately waived off the goal saying that Glencross tipped the puck with a high stick. After a short video review, the call was upheld much to the chagrin of the sell-out crowd of 19,289 fans in attendance at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"It's a ref's discretion obviously and sometimes that happens," Glencross said. "We all just kind of shook our heads and put it behind us. You know it was still a tight game there and we just had to go forward with it."
Calgary's persistence finally paid off when Iginla made a nice saucer pass across to Nystrom who made no mistake by one-timing a shot into the top corner to finally put the Flames up 3-2.
Although it was the Flames who held the majority of the early play, the Wild hit the scoresheet first when Brunette swatted a rebound past Kiprusoff.
Calgary tied up the game at 13:23 of the opening frame when Lundmark's snap shot from the right faceoff circle beat Backstrom high to the glove side. The goal snapped a scoreless span of 133:51 for the Flames, who were shut out in back-to-back road games in Pittsburgh and Columbus on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Flames then took a 2-1 lead when Langkow converted a feed from Todd Bertuzzi, who outbattled Minnesota defenceman Martin Skoula behind the net before throwing the puck out front to his linemate.
At 11:13 of the second period, Sheppard scored his first goal in 26 games to tie the game once again.
Notes: For Bertuzzi, it was his second game back after missing 11 games due to arthroscopic knee surgery he underwent in early March. . . . The Calgary power play has now failed so score in 16 straight opportunities. . . . Kiprusoff improved his all-time record against the Wild to 24-6-3, while Backstrom's record against the Flames is now 4-6-4.