It had not been a good seven days for the Calgary Flames. They had wasted a lead and lost to the Minnesota Wild in overtime. They had wasted a two-goal lead in the third period and lost to the Colorado Avalanche. On top of that, they had signed restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, only to watch Colorado match the offer, only to learn they could have lost the player on waivers had they been so fortunate as to get him.
Confused? So were the Flames and a lot of other people.
Then came the promise of a Sunday visit from the Vancouver Canucks. They had played and won the night before against the Los Angeles Kings. The Canucks had also arrived here later than planned Sunday because of a nasty Southern Alberta storm that forced them to – heaven forbid – miss their pregame naps. Surely that tilted the odds in the Flames’ favour.
It must have.
On a wintry night outside the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames heated up as the evening wore on, taking a well-earned 4-2 victory from their Northwest Division rivals. It was a win with some encouraging signs for Calgary: a game-winning goal from Jarome Iginla, who now has five goals in his last four games; two goals from Mike Cammalleri, now with eight on the season; another smart offensive showing from Jiri Hudler. Plus, and this was unexpected, a solid effort in net from Danny Taylor.
While the Canucks went with Roberto Luongo in goal, given that Cory Schneider had played Saturday, the Flames opted to start Taylor, the British-born Canadian who once starred in Germany for the Hamburg Freezers.
Taylor began this season with the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate in Abbotsford. When Miikka Kiprusoff injured a knee, Taylor got his NHL shot only after Leland Irving had his first, and Joey MacDonald was claimed off waivers. In his first game with the Flames, on Feb. 18, Taylor lost 4-0 against the Phoenix Coyotes but made 33 saves and looked solid for a guy whose last start had come five years ago with Los Angeles.
“I feel that he had two great periods in Phoenix,” Calgary head coach Bob Hartley said before Sunday’s game. “Joey MacDonald played quite a few games for us, Kipper is getting healthier and is getting closer, so we felt that at the same time as giving a break to MacDonald, to have another look at Danny Taylor would be a good idea. He’s not a young kid, but at the same time, the NHL is new to him. He’s excited. We’re all with him.”
Calgary didn’t give Taylor much help early on. The Canucks opened the scoring in the first period when Chris Higgins converted on a breakaway, beating Taylor on the stick side. The Flames tied it almost eight minutes later when Cammalleri skated over the Vancouver blueline and snapped a shot that hit Luongo’s glove and deflected into the net.
Luongo atoned for his gaffe with a nifty second-period pad save off Sven Baertschi. The Canucks controlled the rebound and quickly turned up ice with Jannik Hansen knocking in a rebound at 2:36 to reclaim the lead. Once again, the Flames fought back and pulled even. This time it was Lee Stempniak, left alone in the slot, who fired the puck high on Luongo.
That set up a third period in which Iginla scored and Cammalleri clinched the outcome with an empty-netter. Along the way, Taylor did what he had to do to record his first NHL win. His best save came off Alex Burrows in the second period with the score tied 2-2. Taylor also withstood a late Vancouver barrage.
“He made some big saves for us,” Stempniak said of Taylor. “It was nice to get some goals for him. We didn’t do that in Phoenix.”
The Flames, back at .500 and feeling upbeat, are about to embark on a three-game road swing through Southern California. They’re hoping the new week is a vast improvement on the one that went from disappointing to worse to O’Reilly bad.