“Before the game, I heard (Nabokov) was a little shaky on his pads, so they told us put the pucks on net. I was trying to get pucks to the net and it worked out pretty good. I was happy to see those guys put the rebounds in.” – Mikael Backlund
Revenge. Redemption. Relief.
Call it what you will, but on Friday evening the Calgary Flames sought a solution and found it through diligent checking, attention to detail and a cohesive, confident approach. When the final siren sounded, the stat sheet read 4-3 in favor of the Stampede City side, a score that flattered the Sharks and fueled the Flames.
Still smarting from the 9-1 whipping the Sharks laid on them the last time these two teams met, the Flames played this game with fervent fear and anxious aggression. All four lines contributed to the offensive attack with a couple of seldom-heard names and rarely-seen faces leading the onslaught.
Rookie Mikael Backlund, exiled to the press box for much of the post-Olympic stretch, was pressed into action and responded with a two-assist effort for the first multi-point game of his still embryonic career. Jamal Mayers also contributed a pair of helpers for his first two-point outing since being acquired from Toronto in the Dion Phaneuf trade.
Jarome Iginla notched 2/3 of a Gordie Howe hat-trick, scoring his first goal in four outings to open the scoring less than four minutes into the affair before tossing knuckles with Ryane Clow in a spirited tilt that had the Saddledome throng buzzing and chanting the captain’s name.
Nigel Dawes – another press box immigrant – scored his first goal in 21 games and provided fresh legs and infectious energy into the Flames attack. Eric Nystrom, continuing an optimistic purge that has seen him return to the form that he showed when the team was sitting on the top rung of the division ladder, scored the eventual game-winning goal midway through the middle stanza.
As impressive and necessary as the victory was, the story is still a cautionary tale. Calgary caught San Jose in the midst of one their patented and predicable late-season swoons and although they were sounding outplayed for 50 minutes, they still managed to snare a couple of late goals to make the final 90 seconds a nail-biting adventure.
Both of the Sharks late-game tallies were caused by careless and sloppy giveaways by the Flames, mistakes that cannot be allowed to occur if they are going to right their still-lilting ship and steer the vessel into what are certain to be Shark infested post-season waters.
The Detroit Red Wings, who pulled off a minor miracle three hours north in Edmonton by scoring the tying goal with .02 ticks – yes, that’s .02 – left on the clock to earn a single point aren’t going to go away. Nashville just keeps on winning and Phoenix, well, their story is the story of the year – in any sport.
No, if the Flames are going to do this, they need to do it themselves. A replay of the final two minutes that turned a comfortable conclusion into a frenzied finish is not acceptable.