Iginla had two goals and an assist, and scored the game-winner with 3:30 remaining in a 4-2 victory over the punchless St. Louis Blues Tuesday night. That spoiled the home debut of new Blues coach Mike Kitchen, whose team led 1-0 after two periods.
“This was a critical game, and we blew it,” center Keith Tkachuk said. “You have to move on, or else.”
The loss was the latest blow to the Blues’ chances of extending their playoff run of 24 straight seasons, the longest current streak in professional sports, and this defeat came against one of the teams they are pursuing. The Blues are four points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference and six behind the Flames, who ended a six-game losing streak against St. Louis.
The Flames are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. They’re tied for sixth with the Predators.
“It’s so tight in the Western Conference,” goalie Mikka Kiprusoff said after making 28 saves. “It’s so close that pretty much every game is a playoff game for us.”
Iginla is among the NHL leaders with 33 goals, three in two games. He and Steven Reinprecht scored in a span of 51 seconds early in the third period to put the Flames ahead 2-1.
The Blues tied it on a power-play goal by Pavol Demitra with 5:10 left, but Iginla put the Flames back ahead with a rebound shot on a three-on-two rush. Reinprecht added an empty-net goal with 33.7 seconds left.
“That was a tough game,” Iginla said. “It feels great to win it as a group.”
St. Louis scored for the first time in three games, ending a drought of 148 minutes, 22 seconds on Scott Mellanby’s first-period deflection on a power play. The Blues have seven goals in six games, going 0-5-1. They are 0-3-1 since Kitchen replaced fired coach Joel Quenneville.
Reinprecht’s sixth goal, and first since Nov. 22, tied it at 1 at 48 seconds of the third. Blues goalie Chris Osgood was scrambling back to the net after being tripped outside the crease by Ville Nieminen when Reinprecht scored.
The Blues were incensed that no penalty was called. Kitchen said he thought the hit affected Osgood the rest of the way.
“I think it changed the game,” Kitchen said. “I don’t know why there wasn’t a call. That’s a distraction, when you get hit like that.”
The Flames knew they’d gotten lucky.
“We were able to score quick with Reinprecht,” center Craig Conroy said. “We caught a break, no doubt about it.”
Iginla put the Flames ahead with his 32nd goal at 1:39, scoring on the rebound of a drive by Andrew Ference while the teams skated four-on-four. Calgary is 18-3-2-1 when Iginla scores.
Mellanby got his 13th on the deflection of a point shot by Chris Pronger at 2:12 of the first period, beating Kiprusoff on a power play.
The Flames rebounded after a slow start. They got off only one shot in thefirst 15 minutes, and four in the first period overall.
The Blues fell to 21-3-2 when leading after two periods. … Kiprusoff has allowed two or fewer goals in 19 of 25 starts. … The Blues had been in a 2-for-25 slump on the power play before Mellanby’s goal, and were 2-for-8overall against the Flames.