Jarome Iginla's natural hat trick led the Calgary Flames to a crucial 5-4 comeback win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night in an offensive game strangely unlike what was expected.
Just one night after putting fans to sleep in a typically strong defensive 2-1 victory over Vancouver, the Wild made numerous mistakes and gave up too many offensive opportunities.
Calgary used the two points to move within one of Minnesota in the battle for the NHL's Northwest Division and third seed in the Western Conference. They also jumped two up on idle Vancouver and four up on Colorado, though remain sixth overall.
Dion Phaneuf and Matthew Lombardi also scored for the Flames. Rookie Benoit Pouliot had his first two NHL goals for the Wild while defenceman Kim Johnsson also scored twice, the second with 55 seconds to go, setting up a busy finish.
"We really from the start of the game knew they'd played last night and we were trying to just finish every check and try and put it in the corners and make them turn around and just keep hammering them," Iginla told CBC Sports afterward.
"Hopefully as it went on, [we'd] just try to keep bringing the puck to the net and try and outmuscle them."
Threesome took seven minutes
Iginla's natural hat trick began late in the second period.
A shot by Phaneuf from the point went into a big crowd where it was stopped, fell to the ice right on Iginla's stick and ended the journey in the net thanks to a little backhand, and it was 2-2 at 19:37.
Refreshed by a 20-minute rest while the ice was cleaned, Iginla burst out in the third.
Alex Tanguay took advantage of a turnover to race back into the Wild zone, where he saw a flash of red out of his right eye that was unmistakably his charging captain. Over the pass went, and Iginla, with a defender behind him and one beside, snapped one by Josh Harding to make it 3-2.
That was at 50 seconds.
Less than six minutes later, another shot from the point rebounded out to Iginla, who had been battling down low for position, and that went in for a 4-2 Calgary lead and a short break while the arena staff cleaned up the torrent of hats that came down from the appreciative crowd.
It was Iginla's seventh career hat trick and second of the year, and it gave him 48 goals for the season.
"I thought in front we created a lot of traffic as the game went on and we competed pretty hard in front of the net and got our bounces from that," Iginla said.
Wild tried to come back
Minnesota isn't known for its wild comebacks, but they gave it a shot on this night.
Just past the halfway mark of the third, Pavol Demitra picked the puck out of a scramble at the back of the Calgary net and threaded a perfect offering to Johnsson, who had wandered in from the point. He put the disc through traffic and in to make it 4-3.
But Lombardi would provide the eventual winner with 1:42 to go, again on a most un-Wild-like play.
Trying to force the puck into the Calgary zone, the Wild turned it over, allowing Lombardi to race back the other way. Down the left side he was able to bring the puck to the top of the circle, where he wound up and put the puck over Harding's catching hand and into the net to restore the two-goal lead.
Johnsson scored again inside the last minute with a nice shot from the left circle, but that was all the Wild could get.
Mistake leads to first goal
Perhaps signalling what kind of a night was coming, Phaneuf opened the scoring at three minutes of the second period on a shorthanded effort.
The defenceman took the puck deep in his own zone and put on a Bobby Orr-like attack, splitting three Wild defenders at the blue line before putting his head down and pistoning in on Harding, where he used a backhand to beat the goaltender pretty as you please.
That was when Pouliot came back with his a pair — his first ever — at 13:12 and 19:37 of the second.