VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—Jarome Iginla’s first season as Calgary captain has become the Flames’ most successful campaign in 15 years.
Iginla scored two goals and assisted on Martin Gelinas’ power-play winner 1:25 into overtime, giving the Flames a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 Monday night and their first playoff series win since capturing the Stanley Cup in 1989.
“Jarome Iginla tonight was a dominating player,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. “In my 25 years, the game tonight was as dominating as I’ve seen one player in one game of playoff hockey.”
Iginla’s second goal midway through the third period gave the Flames a 2-1 lead, but he missed an empty net late and then tripped over his stick at center ice, leading to Matt Cooke’s tying goal with 5.7 seconds left in regulation.
Instead of folding, the Flames, who lost Game 6 in triple overtime, came out and scored quickly on a power play early in overtime.
With Ed Jovanovski in the penalty box for a high-sticking penalty with 27 seconds left, Alex Auld robbed Iginla on a rebound. But the puck bounced right to Gelinas at the side of the net and he snapped it past the fallen goaltender.
“It was a heartbreaker with five seconds left and I felt bad for Iggy,” Gelinas said. “He was our leader all game long, then he steps on his stick and they score. We came back and said `so be it’ and we kept on moving. Fortunately we got a good bounce in OT and came out on top.”
The sixth-seeded Flames, who were 0-7 since 1991 when they had a chance to win a series, will take on the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
“It’s been 15 years since we’ve had a second round,” said Iginla, who recorded a game-high nine shots. “Calgary is a great hockey city and I know it’s been tough on the fans, and they deserve this.”
Playing without No. 1 goaltender Dan Cloutier, who sprained his ankle in Game 3, and forward Todd Bertuzzi, who was suspended for punching Colorado’s Steve Moore, the third-seeded Canucks failed to reach the second round for the third time in four years.
Auld, a 23-year-old rookie making his third straight start ahead of regular backup Johan Hedberg, finished with 25 saves. But it wasn’t enough.
“In the end you have to compliment their superstar player,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said of Iginla. “He showed up and was outstanding. That was as good a game as I’ve seen anybody play in my time.”
Iginla opened the scoring on a breakaway 12:50 into the second period, just 11 seconds after Kiprusoff stymied a Canucks power play.
Kiprusoff made point-blank saves off Jovanovski and Daniel Sedin just before Conroy came out of the penalty box and skated to Matthew Lombardi’s long pass at center ice. Conroy fed Iginla streaking down the right wing and the Calgary captain snapped a hard shot between Auld’s legs.
Iginla scored his series-high fifth goal on the ensuing power play, cutting to the net to get to a rebound and spinning from backhand to forehand before tucking the puck past Auld.
“The more on the line, the more fun they are to play and the more fun they are to win,” said Iginla, playing his first full NHL playoff series. “You dream about them when you’re younger, to be in an OT Game 7.”
Cooke redeemed himself by banging in the rebound just before the clock was set to run out on the Canucks.
Despite missing two regulars on defense and several key forwards, the Flames never stopped believing they could win.
“Regardless of whether we scored on the power play, we felt we were going to win this game,” Iginla said. “We really believed it and fortunately we gotit.
Calgary D Steve Montador played his first playoff game in place of Denis Gauthier. … This was the third straight playoff series the Canucks hosted Game 7. They split the first two last year, beating St. Louis in the first round before losing to Minnesota in the second. … The last two times these teams met in the playoffs, Game 7 of the first round went into overtime. In each case, the winner advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. Calgary won its only Cup in 1989 and the Canucks lost in the finals to the New York Rangers inseven games in 1994.