The youthful exuberance that Roman Horak brings to the Calgary Flames’ lineup seems to be rubbing off on the veterans.
The 20-year-old rookie centre had a goal and an assist and Miikka Kiprusoff made 28 saves as the Calgary Flames beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 Friday.
It was the second straight two-point game for Horak, who scored his first NHL goal in Wednesday night’s 4-2 victory over Colorado.
“With every point and when you’re getting more ice time, that gives you more confidence,” said Horak, who played the past three seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League.
Horak was a plus-two and logged 17:39 in ice time on Friday, over a minute more than his previous high set 48 hours earlier.
“Hockey is all about having that confidence so it feels great when you’re out there and the coach trusts you to put you out there,” Horak said.
Horak is five years younger than the second youngest player on the active roster, 25-year-old defenceman Chris Butler. The youthful enthusiasm he’s bringing to the line-up has made a big impact on the veteran Flames, who are the second oldest club in the NHL.
“He brings a lot of energy, he’s enjoying every minute of it, and he’s a smart hockey player too,” said rugged winger Tim Jackman, who had two assists. “Earlier, we were thinking where is he? Now it seems like he’s always in the right spot. He’s a fast learner and you can see how talented he is by the way he’s playing.”
Tom Kostopoulos and Olli Jokinen, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (4-4-1). Curtis Glencross also had a pair of assists. The Flames improved to 3-1-1 on their season-long six-game homestand, which ends next Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.
Alex Steen scored his team-leading sixth goal of the year for St. Louis (5-5-0), which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Calgary gained momentum halfway through the third period when St. Louis had a power play for over three minutes, including a 54 second two-man advantage, but couldn’t score.
The Blues entered the game with the NHL’s worst power play, having scored a league-low two goals. Despite firing five shots on Kiprusoff during that critical stretch – the most dangerous chances coming from Carlo Colaiacovo and Matt D’Agostini – the Blues couldn’t capitalize.
“We moved the puck decent, but not terrific,” Steen said. “We had two or three good looks and we had a couple of chances that we should have buried.”
St. Louis is 1-for-28 with the extra man over its last eight games.
“When it’s going like it is, the power play just has to continue to work and has to continue to find ways to be a little sharper and more determined,” said Blues coach Davis Payne.
After surviving the scare, Horak brought the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 19,289 to its feet when he got free in the slot and snapped a shot that squeaked through Brian Elliott’s pads at 12:16.
“A lucky shot, but it went in,” Horak said. “The goal was huge but great work from Jackman behind the net and a great pass from Glennie (Glencross).”
The two-goal lead lasted only 12 seconds as Steen’s long shot through a screen immediately brought the Blues back to within one.
It was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, with Calgary losing the first game 5-2 with backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson in net. The Flames were much better on this night, backstopped by Kiprusoff, who improves his career record to 19-4-2 against the Blues.
“It’s a real good team and if you look at the game today, it was a close game, but we were able to win it and that’s the key thing,” said the 35-year-old Finn.
Jackman pointed to Kiprusoff’s stops during the long man advantage as the key point in the game.
“That’s why he’s the man, you saw it first hand tonight. The talent he has, his competitiveness, he doesn’t quit on the puck ever,” Jackman said.
It was the first loss for Elliott in five starts. He entered the night with a 1.59 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. The 26-year-old signed with St. Louis Blues this past summer as a free agent after three seasons with Ottawa and a brief stint last year with Colorado after a mid-season trade.
Notes: Calgary welcomed back LW Glencross (lower body) to the lineup after missing the previous game. That bumped LW Niklas Hagman to the press box where he joined C Matt Stajan as healthy scratches. ... For the second straight game, the Flames dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen. ... Calgary C Brendan Morrison played in career game No. 900. He’s one of three Flames to have reached that mark (Jarome Iginla – 1115 and Olli Jokinen – 969). ... Calgary improves to 10-2-1 in its last 13 games against St. Louis at home.