Friday, April 1, 2011

Iginla's goal a milestone winner for Flames

1,000th career point was difference in 3-2 win
over Blues, who were officially eliminated from playoffs

ST. LOUIS -- Tie game, third period and two points on the line. If you're the Blues and you're playing the Calgary Flames, who don't you want to have the puck?

Right, Jarome Iginla.

Unfortunately, Iginla, as he's done often in his career against the Blues, but then again. And it came in milestone fashion.

Iginla's second goal of the game and third point of the night was the 1,000th point of his career with 5:03 remaining in the game rallied the Flames to a 3-2 win over the Blues.

The win for Calgary (39-29-11), their fourth win in as many meetings with the Blues (35-33-10), kept the Flames alive in the Western Conference playoff race. They trail eighth-place Chicago by three points. The Blues were officially eliminated from the playoff race with the loss.

Iginla, who has 67 career points in 56 games against the Blues, beat Jaroslav Halak on a breakaway attempt after Alex Tanguay sprung him loose from the Flames zone after the Blues sustained some offensive pressure.

Defenseman Nikita Nikitin fell on the play, which enabled Iginla to drive into the Blues zone and beat Halak low to the blocker side that helped the Flames overcome a 2-0 deficit.

"It's something I will remember," the 33-year-old Iginla said, who has 480 goals and 520 assists in 1,103 career games -- all with the Flames. "... It wasn't something I was thinking of year in and year out or anything like that until maybe the last few (years)."

The Blues got a power play goal from Matt D'Agostini and a second-period goal from David Backes to grab a 2-0 lead and they finally solved the mystery of Miikka Kiprusoff, who carried a shutout streak of 132:11 against the Blues into the game and a ridiculous 0.33 goals-against average and .988 save percentage. But Iginla and Alex Tanguay turned into a two-man wrecking crew and spoiled the night in front of 19,150 patrons at Scottrade Center.

"We played a great game for the first two periods," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who assisted on both goals, including a slick pass to set up Backes' 100th career goal. "They kind of started to gain a little momentum at the end of the second period there. We just didn't come out the way we needed to in the third period. They're obviously a desperate hockey team. That shouldn't play into it. We should be just as desperate."

Backes, whose goal was overshadowed by Iginla's feat, agreed.

"Obviously they're a team that has a lot on the line and showed a little bit more drive and will at the end of the game than we did," Backes said. "They stuck with their game. We gave them the opportunities with a little bit of lack of discipline and puck position and puck placement. A little sloppy through the neutral zone. They obviously got a couple guys there in Tanguay and Iginla that'll make you pay. They certainly did.

"It would have been nice if (the 100th goal) was a little more meaningful as far as the end result of the game."

Shattenkirk, who owns a career-best six-game point streak (one goal, seven assists), somehow found Backes through a seam at the back post, and all Backes had to do was bang the puck past Kiprusoff after battling for position with Flames d-man Cory Sarich.

"The lungs were burning after Sarich and I had a pretty good battle, old-fashioned almost going there," Backes said. "A little bump in front, get a little separation and then (Shattenkirk) makes a great pass through everybody to the backdoor.

"Everyone was still on the strongside where he was, I had the empty net and I felt pretty good to bury that one after the work that was put in after that shift."

Said Shattenkirk, who now has 14 points in 22 games since coming to the Blues, "I just took it down the wall and kind of waited the defenseman out and saw a seam there. Just giving it to (Backes) backdoor, it's pretty much a 100 percent play that it's going in the back of the net."

But the Flames gained some life through Tanguay and Iginla, and Iginla roofed his first of the game just 1:21 after Backes' goal to make it 2-1 and give Calgary some life after a failed Blues coverage.

"We had a little bit of a misread from coverage, let the wrong guy in as far as two guys going to the same puck," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Iginla gets in behind us and it doesn't take him much to finish that off."

Payne said he thought the Blues regrouped and got through the first 6-7 minutes of the third period without any issues. But a Chris Stewart turnover in the neutral zone enabled Iginla and Tanguay to break in 2-on-1, and Tanguay tied it with another rooftop goal 8:01 into the third.

"We were putting pucks in right areas and seemed to have that first six or seven minutes off the clock pretty well," Payne said. "... Turnovers like that against a team which does a real good job in the neutral zone, they kill you. They absolutely kill you."

The Blues thought they had a golden opportunity to get the lead back when Chris Porter and Vladimir Sobotka broke in 2-on-1. Instead of a shot, Porter slid a pass to Sobotka, who couldn't cleanly receive the puck. Minutes later, it was Iginla doing what he does best: scoring a goal and racking up the milestone point.

"He's putting Chris Stewart-type of numbers up against the Blues," Backes said of Iginla. "He's a guy that seems to, third periods especially, find that extra gear and really make us pay. We need to combat that and have some sort of answer to that. When he's on the ice, we need awareness of that."

Added Shattenkirk, "He showed tonight why he's one of the best in the league. Hat's off to him because he really turned it on there at the end of the game and really just put his team on his back and got them the win."

Payne said it came down to which team wanted it more.

"Calgary came with a determined push," said Payne, whose team is 23-4-1 when leading after two periods. "We knew they were desperate where they were based on the number of games they had left. They started executing some plays through us with some real pace.

"(Iginla's) a guy that's been a difference-maker for them for years. You can see that there's a guy that understands what's on the line. He had his two chances. Both were in our net."

The loss spoiled the return of defenseman Barret Jackman (broken index finger) and winger Alex Steen (high ankle sprain). Both were expected to miss 4-6 weeks after being injured March 9 in Columbus.

"I started feeling good," Steen said. "We were patient for the first couple weeks with the boot and then I took it off. I felt like it progressed and then we got a little aggressive with the recovery and I felt like tonight was a good night.

"It's not going to be 100 percent. I thought it was good. ... I thought it passed the test. The longer the game progressed, the easier it got. My mind was not on it as much in the third as it was in the first."

* NOTES -- D'Agostini has 13 points in 11 games. ... The Flames got back center Daymond Langkow (broken neck), who saw his first game in more than a year. Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester currently holds the NHL's longest ironman streak after playing in his 503rd game.

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