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Flames' Stajan turns back clock to beat Wild

The SportsXchange

CALGARY -- It was billed as "Retro Night" at the Scotiabank Saddledome, so it wouldn't have seemed right if a shootout was required.

And although Saturday's Northwest Division battle will not be confused for a run-and-gun game from yesteryear, Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan ensured extra-time wasn't necessary in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild.

"I saw a good effort and I saw lots of fans go home happy, and that's always a good sign," said Flames coach Bob Hartley, whose team won for only the third time in 10 home games so far this season. "It was a tight-checking game. There were not many chances on both side. I felt that it would be a grind, and it was.

"And I'm so happy for Matt Stajan. What a great reward for him. He played very well."

Stajan scored the game-winner on a wild scramble at the 7:19 mark of the third period, poking a rebound across the goal-line after Chris Butler's blast from the point. Flames captain Jarome Iginla was standing his ground in front of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on the play and also earned an assist.

It was an ugly goal, a fitting end to a game that was not necessarily easy on the eyes. Stajan also added an empty-netter with nine seconds remaining as the Flames snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 6-7-3.

For the much-maligned center, it was his first two-goal game since Dec. 12, 2009, while he was still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"It seems like a while since I've had two in a game, but I'll take it," Stajan said. "That's a big win. It doesn't matter about personal stuff right now. We need to find ways to win and if we're winning games, it benefits everybody.

"In games like that, it's always a bounce or a second effort a breakdown like that where you have to crash the net. We've lost a few games like that this year. We don't have to look too far back to see some results that went against us."

With a ton of icing stoppages and not a lot of great scoring chances for either side, it was what fans have come to expect when Calgary and Minnesota meet.

The Wild (8-7-2) arrived in Calgary with four wins and nine points in their past six outings, but they didn't earn high marks from head coach Mike Yeo for Saturday's effort.

"This was not the way we are supposed to play the game," Yeo said. "We've been playing pretty good here lately. We're talking about how we're still building our game and we're still learning and I think we learn from doing the right thing and seeing the result and you learn from the wrong thing like we just did and seeing the result.

"It's a matter of getting back to our game. I know we're not going to not make the playoffs because we didn't win this game, but we have to respond the right way."

The Flames opened the scoring early in the first period on a retro-type play.

Wild right-winger Dany Heatley, who was raised in Calgary, botched a pass to captain Mikko Koivu on a two-on-one rush and Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester grabbed the loose puck and fired a perfect breakaway pass to Alex Tanguay.

Although Calgary's leading point-producer hadn't scored in seven games, he showed soft hands on his all-alone opportunity, making a tricky deke around goalie Niklas Backstrom and then roofing a shot.

The Wild tied it up on Charlie Coyle's first big-league goal, a re-direction of Pierre-March Bouchard's pass at the 8:56 mark of the first period.

That was the only offence the visitors could muster.

When they did generate a solid scoring chance, Flames goalie Joey MacDonald stood his ground. The waiver-wire acquisition earned his first win at the Saddledome by kicking aside 30 shots.

It wasn't exactly highlight-reel stuff, but the 33-year-old wasn't apologizing.

"When you've been struggling at home, you've got to find a way. If it's icing the puck more, keeping it out of our defensive zone, so be it," MacDonald said. "With Minnesota, that's the way they are. It's a patient game and sometimes they're a boring game to watch, but that's what they thrive on, teams falling asleep and they capitalize on it.

"I thought we did a great job staying with it."

Backstrom made 24 saves for the Wild in a losing effort.

The Flames will host the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday, while the Wild will head home and wait for Tuesday's rematch with the Flames.

NOTES: The Flames had one of the NHL's worst home records at 3-5-2 ... \Yeo weighed in on Taylor Hall's two game suspension after Saturday's morning skate, saying "We were confident that the league was going to take care of it. Now, we have to move forward." Wild right-winger Cal Clutterbuck, who was injured on a reckless hit by the Edmonton Oilers star in Thursday's meeting at Rexall Place, was not on crutches prior to Saturday's game, which must be a good sign ... Flames rookie left-winger Sven Baertschi returned to the lineup after missing 11 games due to a hip flexor injury. The Flames are still without the services of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who has now missed nine games because of a knee injury ... The Wild, who have used six rookies this season, made center Mikael Granlund a healthy scratch. The Flames' spectators included winger Roman Cervenka, the former KHL all-star who has been struggling lately.
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