In a historic and uncharacteristically decisive win, the Calgary Flames beat the St. Louis Blues 7-3 at the Saddledome tonight. The spotlight in this game was on Jarome Iginla, who, at 18:27 of the 1st period, passed Theoren Fleury to become the franchise's all-time goals leader at 365, one-timing a pass from Kristian Huselius at the left circle. However, Iginla was not the only Flame celebrating a personal victory tonight, as Huselius AND Matthew Lombardi both snapped their long, much publicized goalless streaks. Huselius scored 7:33 into the first, taking a nice cross-ice feed from Iggy and taking a wrister which took the right bounces to find the back of the net, and Lombardi broke his streak nine minutes into the second, shorthanded, taking a beautiful breakaway feed from Alex Tanguay and racing to the net where the puck slid off his backhand to the back of the net. Tanguay himself scored two and Marcus Nilson and Daymond Langkow also scored for the Flames.
The Flames got off to a roaring start, with Tanguay outskating Martin Rucinsky down the wing and wiring a shot over Manny Legace's shoulder. Huselius made it 2-0 at the 7:33 mark before David Backes converted a pretty passing play on the man advantage to get St. Louis back in the game less than two minutes later. Iginla's historic goal with less than two minutes left regained the Flames' momentum, however, and although Brad Boyes got St. Louis within a goal again early in the 2nd, Lombardi's shorthanded goal was the final momentum shift the Flames needed. After Nilson and Langkow's goals, the closest the Blues would get would be 6-3 on another Boyes goal before Alex Tanguay's shorthanded empty netter with about five minutes left.
This was a game the Flames had to win and the way the Flames won even pleased me. It was good for the Flames to get three things out of the way: Iginla's record breaking goal, which could have become a distraction if the hype went on too long, Kristian Huselius finally snapping a long string of unluckiness to get back to scoring, and Matthew Lombardi finally doing something with that speed of his. Teams in tight divisional battles like the Flames have to win games against teams as out of it as the Blues, and the Flames delivered. They take a one point lead in the Northwest race and have a prime chance to put some more pressure on Minnesota and Colorado against Washington on Wednesday, as Minnesota is idle until Thursday and although the Avs remain two points behind, the Flames have a game in hand.
I'm still not close to being optimistic about the Flames' chances. After all, this was a game against a 14th place team and the Flames have not played close to this well or inspiring against playoff teams. However, for the sake of the playoff push, and for my hockey fan's heart if not my hockey fan's mind, I can't help but be extremely pleased with tonight's result.
And last, but not least, I have to make a comment about Jarome Iginla. He won't read this but I have to congratulate him. Who would have thought that when Al Coates traded Joe Nieuwendyk for a virtual unknown prospect back in 1995, that that prospect would become the face of the franchise and one of the NHL's most dominant players within ten years? The Flames could not ask for more of a classier captain, and this record is the result of Iginla sticking with the Flames for his entire career. Jarome has given everything he possibly can to this franchise, through the most dismal years to the franchise's resurrection and near Cup win in 2004. With his contract extension, Iginla is likely to finish his career with the Flames, or at least he will stick with the Flames through the rest of his prime. The Flames owe him for everything he has given the franchise, and the only just reward I can see is a Cup before his career here ends.
Hats off to Iginla, and let's hope the Flames emulate their effort on Wednesday.