Iginla Rally Ignites Flames

Flames Grow Cushion to Six Points

March 2nd, 2004

There may have been no better measure of how far the Calgary Flames have come this magical year than yet another display of a killer instinct so often missing through the previous seven lost seasons.

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period in a crucial Western Conference battle on the road last night, Calgary drilled two quick markers early in the final frame, eventually felling St. Louis 4-2 on the back of three points from Jarome Iginla leaving the Flames six points up on the rapidly disappearing ninth place Blues in the wild Western Conference.

Although the contest might have been better described as "must win" for St. Louis, the Flames nevertheless needed this one badly, a young club that might have seen the veteran Blues closing in on them hard in the rear view mirror are instead given a margin of comfort as the final traces of this wondrous season wind their way to conclusion.

Steve Reinprecht, with his first marker in 28 games and Iginla with his 32nd of the year, both scored within 51 seconds early in the third and Iginla added his 33rd as the eventual game winner late in the game as Calgary pulled out a crucial victory in a penalty filled and physical contest, Flames now 33-24-5-3 on the year, good for 74 points.

"We just wanted to stick with it," said Iginla after the game on FAN960 of the mood in the Calgary dressing room entering the final period. "We thought we were going alright. I think we felt we were due. We hadn't scored too many goals against them in two (previous) games. We just kept pushing and finally broke through."

"It's a very big game and it feels great to win it. We feel we want to keep going."

With Iginla a plus four on the night, the Blues Big Boys of Chris Pronger (minus four), Pavol Demitra (minus three) and Keith Tkachuk (minus three) were clearly outplayed, probably the deciding factor in the game.

For St. Louis, the loss could only be called a disaster, an opportunity to close to within two points of idle eighth place LA and seventh place Calgary having gone up in smoke, yet symptomatic of their entire season.

The rapidly fading Blues are winless in six and still without a victory for new coach Mike Kitchen who replaced the fired Joel Quennville four games ago with little difference, the Blues streak of 24 consecutive seasons in the playoffs now in serious jeopardy.

It was the first time Calgary had beaten St. Louis in two seasons and a more timely victory would have been hard to imagine.

Calgary spent much of this game tempting fate, the sixth ranked home power play in the NHL getting ample opportunity to test its mettle against the 16th ranked road penalty killing of Calgary, the Flames offering up six power play opportunities to the Blues before the end of the second period and eight in total before the night was out.

Made more infuriating were the two consecutive extra man penalties taken by Calgary within the first ten minutes of the first period, the Blues opening scoring only 2:12 in on the powerplay when a Chris Pronger bullet was deflected by Scott Mellanby past Calgary starter Miikka Kiprusoff.

Only :48 seconds into the third period, however, Blues starter Chris Osgood was hit behind the St. Louis net by Ville Nieminen and couldn't retreat back to his area of responsibility in time, allowing Iginla to touch a pass out front to Reinprecht, the latter banging the puck home from the slot for his first in 28 games.

Fifty one seconds later, playing four on four hockey, Andrew Ference then drove a hard rocket from the point with Osgood yielding a satisfactory rebound to Iginla, who found the open net with ease at 1:39.

Demitra finally connected on yet another Blues powerplay, pouncing on a pass from Pronger near the crease and finding an open net at 14:50, the Blues drawing even and seemingly given a second lease on life.

But Iginla drove the net hard exactly 100 seconds later, pounding his own rebound past Osgood at 16:30 and putting the lights out on the Blues for good.

Reinprecht then added his second of the game and eighth of the season into an empty net at 19:26.

The game marked the 22nd time in 25 starts that Kiprusoff has surrendered two or fewer goals this season, the big Calgary netminder now 17-6-2 on the year and creeping into Vezina Trophy talk in spite of his limited minutes.

Kiprusoff stopped 28 of 30 shots while Osgood surrendered three goals on 17 shots.

It doesn't get easier for the Flames, the team catching a flight to Detroit immediately after the game to battle the front running Wings on Wednesday night. Not as critical perhaps but they're all going to be important as the season winds down.






1) Jarome Iginla - That's why he earns the big bucks, the Flames uber-winger turning into a big game player, assisting on the tying goal and scoring two, including the game winner, his ninth of the year, in a critical Conference contest.

2) Steve Reinprecht - Discreetly nursing a still banged up shoulder, but finally breaks through with two goals.

3) Miikka Kiprusoff - Gives up two goals or less on a monotonous but reassuring basis, his team having an opportunity to win most nights when he's in net.

Mike Rycroft whizzed down right wing and let a blistering shot go on Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames goaltender smothering the rocket and keeping the score at 1-0 midway through the second period.

Kryzstof Oliwa found Scott Mellanby loitering near the bench area midway through the second period, the not-insignificant Mellanby dropping like a shot from a less-than-discreet elbow.

Blues have qualified for the playoffs 24 straight years. Calgary has missed the post-season seven straight years . . . .Blues had been shutout two straight games. . . . . . . Scratched was the struggling Matthew Lombardi as well as bubble boy Josh Green . . . . . . The pair of extra man penalties give Calgary 20 for the season, tops in the league in a dubious category. . . . . . Flames were 45% in the faceoff circle, led by the 55% of Craig Conroy. Jamal Mayers was 66% for St. Louis. . . . . Pronger was tops with 30:53 in ice time while Jordan Leopold logged 23:42 for Calgary. The differential in those two numbers might be a good testimony as to the difference in depth between the two teams with Al MacInnis and Barret Jackman injured for the Blues. . . . .

Nieminen Conroy Iginla
Gelinas McAmmond Donovan
Saprykin Yelle Clark
Oliwa Reinprect Kobasew

Ference Lydman
Gauthier Warrener
Regehr Leopold

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