While the trade of Jarome Iginla indicates where the Calgary Flames hopes are with one month remaining in the NHL regular season, the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in the playoff hunt and they picked up an important win Friday night.
Vinny Prospal, R.J. Umberger and Mark Letestu each had a goal and an assist as Columbus scored four times in the second period in a 6-4 victory over the Flames, snapping Calgary’s eight-game winning streak at home.
“What stands out, out of this game, is the two points, no matter how you get them,” said Prospal. “Sure, maybe coaches or goalie coaches would love for the scoring to be a little lower but for the offensive guys, it’s great.”
Matt Calvert, Derick Brassard and Ryan Johansen also scored for Columbus (14-14-7), which won for the first time in four games to finish 1-2-1 on its four-game road trip.
Brian McGrattan, Mikael Backlund, Dennis Wideman and Curtis Glencross scored for Calgary (13-16-4).
“Both ways, it was a little sloppy, it wasn’t a perfect game for either team. In our case, it was a back-to-back, end of the road trip, and sometimes that happens,” said Calvert. “We’ve been finding a way to win these games lately and those are the games that help get you into the playoffs.”
Columbus climbed to within one point of the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blue Jackets, who were red-hot with points in 12 straight games prior to heading out on the road, are back home Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.
“This was a huge game for us and not easy, not easy for [Steve] Mason coming in because we played last night and sometimes this is what happens, you get these types of games where the group in front of you is a little bit tired so we may need to lean on you a little bit more,” said coach Todd Richards.
In the first game of the post-Iginla era, many of the fans in the crowd, announced as sell-out of 19,289, wore Flames jerseys with the former captain’s name on the back.
The Flames’ all-time leading scorer was traded to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night in exchange for a 2013 first-round draft pick and U.S. college prospects Ben Hanowski and Kenneth Agostino.
The appreciative fans gave a standing ovation in the first period when a stirring video tribute to Iginla was played on the jumbotron. The Flames’ players stood, banging their sticks against the boards, and officials didn’t immediately drop the puck to allow the moment to go on a little extra.
“He’s meant too much for this organization, to this city, to his teammates, you can expect a lot of ovations like that. I’m sure there will be an even better one when he does come back,” said Stajan. “I went through this in Toronto with Mats Sundin, it’s very similar, and he deserves every clap, every stick tap, every encore cheer that he’s going to get for the rest of his life.”
On the ice, the Flames played a poor defensive game with sloppy play and giveaways leading to many of the Columbus goals.
“We gave them too many tap-ins,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. “We’re not giving up huge scoring chances numbers-wise, but the quality ... guys in this league are going to score every time on chances like that.”
Setting the tone for the night, Columbus scored the only goal of the first period on a giveaway. T.J. Brodie’s blind pass up the middle was intercepted in the slot by Letestu, who made a nice move to beat Miikka Kiprusoff for a short-handed goal.
The Blue Jackets took advantage of several more Calgary miscues in the second period scoring four times, all at even strength, to open up a 5-3 lead.
“We have to manage the puck better. Chances like that come off turnovers because everybody’s going the other way,” said Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, on the ice for all four second period goals. “It’s transition. Lots of teams just feed off it and that’s all they’re looking for. The chances they got were very good chances and they put them in the back of our net.”
Tied 1-1, Columbus took the lead for good at 8:44 of the second when Umberger poked the puck past Bouwmeester at the Blue Jackets’ blue-line and led a two-on-one rush that was finished off nicely by Prospal for an easy one-timer.
The four goals in the second came on eight shots and resulted in Kiprusoff watching the third period from the bench as coach Bob Hartley inserted Joey MacDonald for the final 20 minutes. Calgary outshot Columbus 33-25.
Notes: Bouwmeester and Curtis Glencross were each minus-4 for Calgary ... RW Jared Boll and D Tim Erixon both left the game early for Columbus with injuries. No update was provided ... Columbus rookie D Dalton Prout was a game-high plus-4 while also getting in a fight with McGrattan ... Stajan picked up his 200th NHL assist ... McGrattan’s goal was his first in 75 games, dating back to Oct. 16, 2009 ... Calgary D Anton Babchuk was a healthy scratch for the 23rd time this season. He’s played just two games ... Flames played their final home game before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline. Calgary has one more game before then, Monday night in Edmonton.