Well, all I’ve got to say is thank God for the 5 day All-Star break, because it’s probably going to take that long to sort through all the emotion, confusion, and all around mayhem that filled the Saddledome last night in Calgary.
It took 60 minutes of regulation time, 5 minutes of extra play, and the last chance in a shootout to do it, but the Calgary Flames were able to pull the rug out from under the Columbus Blue Jackets for 5-4 OT win in their last game before the break. And I think I can safely say, the entire hockey community in Calgary breathed a huge sigh of relief after the final buzzer went, as the prospect of heading into said break on a 3 game skid was a very real possibility.
Columbus opened the scoring early on in the first period with a goal from R.J. Umberger at 2:56, but his party was cut short at 8:09 of the frame as he was levelled by Dion Phaneuf. Now, regardless of what I think, the refs thought it looked like a dirty boarding call and tossed Dion out of the game with a fighting major, boarding major, and game misconduct. The Flames, however, got their revenge at 9:11 as the teams played 3-on-3, and it came at the hands of recently scoreless captain Jarome Iginla. On a perfect right wing set up by Adrian Aucoin, Iggy fired a hard slapper through traffic and past Blue Jackets rookie and star goalie Steve Mason to tie things up at 1-1. Iginla had been scoreless in his last 8 games, so the on-ice celebration was well deserved. The thing about parties, though, is it’s not a real shindig until someone crashes…Enter R.J. Umberger, yet again, as the now permanent thorn in Calgary’s side potted his 2nd of the night at 9:42, giving Columbus back their one-goal lead. Calgary battled hard for the equalizer, throwing 17 shots and all they had at Mason, but the newbie pipe master wouldn’t budge, so the Flames were left to head into the first intermission staring at a one goal deficit.
Things in the second period were relatively quiet, at least compared to the opening frame, as it took nearly 18 minutes for someone to break the silence. Much like the first, both teams traded off on penalties, with Flame Robyn Regehr and Blue Jacket Ole-Kristian Tollefsen each going off for two a piece in the stand. Columbus got off easy on the first, but Mike Cammalleri made them pay a heavy price for the second. At 17:40, the One Knee Wonder cruised into Jackets territory and scored on a feed from Aucoin for his team leading 21st goal of the season. However, with Tollefsen out of the box, Columbus wasted no time in getting their lead back at 17:50 when Jakub Voracek put one past Mikka Kiprusoff, putting the score at 3-2. If the Jackets thought they had the middle frame sewn up, though, they clearly didn’t factor in David Moss, who took a pass from Dustin Boyd and wrapped it around Masons pipes at 18:30 to settle things at 3-3 heading into the third.
With things all tied up and 20 left to play (or so we thought), the special teams went to work early on for both Calgary and Columbus. While the Flames were hard at work in the offensive zone seeking a go-ahead goal on the power play, Rick Nash was plotting his chance to steal the show, and he got on a breakaway at 2:41, scoring his 19th of the season on a shorthander. Columbus enjoyed yet another fragile one goal lead until 12:35, when Cammalleri tied things up at fours on a wrist shot nearly identical to his first goal. It was the fourth time in the game that Calgary had come back from a one goal deficit, and the fourth time that Columbus squandered a lead. As the final frame of a see-saw of a match came to an end, the score sat at 4-4 heading into the extra period.
Surprisingly, the OT period was the only one in the game that seemed calm. Calgary managed just 2 shots on goal, while Columbus had none. With everyone in the ‘Dome and those watching at home holding their breath, Mike Keenan and Ken Hitchcock chose their top 3 to face the Men in the Masks in a shootout:
Kipper stopped all three Blue Jackets shooters, including a dandy of a save on Nash’s try.
Mason stopped all but one of Calgary’s shot men, as on the final chance, Todd Bertuzzi buried one past the NHL newcomer to give Calgary the 5-4 win.
The scoring was high and the energy even higher in the final Calgary game before the 5 day break. Jarome Iginla will now head East to Montreal with his Western Conference Team to battle it out in the Super Skills Competition and All-Star game this weekend. Meanwhile, his team-mates and the city that loves him dearly will seek to escape the oncoming deepfreeze by catching the action this Saturday and Sunday. Best of luck to him, and to all of our All-Stars.