Late Goal Gives Cap Tie in Thriller

Gutsy Calgary Performance in Back to Back    

January 14th, 2004

It had everything.

Hits, fights, goals . . . . and you only needed to see the final minutes.

In an entertaining game that appeared destined to be the NHL's second scoreless tie in as many nights, the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames exploded for six goals in the final 5:37 of regulation and fought to a 3-3 tie amid plenty of high drama in the U.S. Capitol.

For the Flames, who lost a certain victory when Jaromir Jagr scored a soft goal from behind the Calgary net with only eight-tenths of a second remaining in the third period, they at least answered the harsh charge of coach Darryl Sutter that they were light in their loafers in Toronto the previous night.

Calgary dominated this game territorally as much as they were invisible in getting pounded by the Leafs the night before, attacking the Capitals with the speed and physical game that was so obviously absent in Toronto.

For all that, the Flames essentially surrendered a critical point in the standings after battling back from a late 1-0 Washington lead, gaining a 2-1 advantage themselves then seeing starter Jamie McLennan allowing two soft goals; to Sergei Gonchar and the final head-shaking killer to Jagr, all sandwiched around what appeared to be the clutch game winner from Jarome Iginla.

With the Flames leading 2-1 on Saprykin's eighth of the year and third in the last five games, Gonchar drilled a hard but clear shot at McLennan who muffed it off his glove and floated behind him into the net.

Iginla put the Flames ahead only 21 seconds later at 19:21 but Jagr, with the clock winding down, somehow found an invisible space off McLennan's goalpost-hugging skate at 19:59 for the tie.

McLennan stopped 20 of 23 Washington shots and was strong for 55 minutes, in spite of the way this one ended while Olaf Kolzig made 41 saves in the Capitals net.

Coach Sutter had universally ridiculed his lineup after being pushed around in a 4-1 loss in Toronto, saying his skill players had been intimidated by the physical Leafs.

There should have been little doubt one of those "skill players" had to be Oleg Saprykin, who responded with a charged and determined physical game.

In overtime, with Iginla appearing set to fight Trent Whitfield, Saprykin stepped in and dropped the gloves himself, eventually socking Whitfield to the ice.

The Flames did pretty much everything they might wanted to have done in this game except jam the net earlier, most of their eventual 44 shots coming from low percentage angles.

Until the final five minutes and the extra frame.

The tie leaves Calgary at 22-14-4-4 on the season, good for 51 points and sixth spot in the NHL's tough Western Conference.

Calgary is one point behind St. Louis for fifth spot while holding a three point edge on seventh place Nashville with a game in hand.

Flames are five points up on ninth place Dallas with two games in hand.

This was a costly game for the Flames as Stephane Yelle went out midway through the second period with an apparent knee injury, another centre the team can't afford to lose.

With Craig Conroy still tantalizingly close to returning but not quite there, the Flames are again in injury trouble if this turns out to be serious, needing Yelle's steadying defensive presence to get them over this short-term hump.

Flames were zero for five on the power play and Washington was zero for two.

Next up is a critical Conference match with Dallas on Saturday.





1) Oleg Saprykin - Called a wimp by his coach in Toronto and then called a limp wrist in the morning newspaper, Saprykin showed up with a spirited if not ferocious effort, scoring a key goal in the third and fighting for his captain in overtime.

2) Jaromir Jagr - Pulled himself out of the hole where Denis Gauthier had left him after a big hit in the final minutes of regulation to score the game tying marker with less than a second remaining.

3) Jarome Iginla - The Captain played like one, creating offence through the night and refusing to let his team lose with a crucial goal and assist in the final five minutes.

With the game still scoreless, Kip Miller accepted a cross ice pass and drilled a shot that seemed labelled short-side on McLennan, but the diminutive Flames netminder managed to raise a glove to stop what seemed like a demoralizing goal after Calgary had dominated the opening frame.

It was more than the hit of the game, it might have been the hit of the year. Jaromir Jagr was shifting gears coming across the Calgary blueline when he became George Bush's first rocket to Mars, Denis Gauthier lifting the Washington forward off his feet and sending him in a high arc that fell just a tad short of the Red Planet.

Washington hasn't won three in a row for over a year. . . . . . Flames were 46% in the faceoff circle but Dean McAmmond managed a 58% overall. Whitfield was 69% for the Capitals. . . . . . Iginla led the Flames with 25:41 in ice time and the Captain seemed to thrive on it. You don't have to be a genius to figure out Iginla is about three times the player right now than he was in the first third of the season. . . . . . . Leopold, as is customary now, generated 25:35 in ice time. One wonders how long a player only one year removed from a short college schedule can keep up the pace. Then again, Sutter was playing him 28 minutes to 30 minutes at the end of last season. . . . . . In a strange twist, the Capitals had three defencemen and one forward over 25 minutes each in ice time, led by Gonchar at 28:04. . . . . After blowing the late lead against Washington, there shouldn't be any doubt that Jamie McLennan will be parked on the bench Saturday night against Dallas, Roman Turek all but assured to be making his first start since the opening moments of the season.

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