Glancing up and seeing the open net (yes, even more open than when Richard Bachman had unsuccessfully tried to fill it) he wasn’t readying to celebrate a milestone. Wasn’t even obsessing on a pending hat trick.
“Honestly,’’ protested Michael Cammalleri, “you’re not thinking about either. You’re thinking: ‘If I don’t get to this red line, I’m going to be be on the video getting my rear chewed out.’
“That’s what you’re thinking about.
“And when it goes in you’re thinking ‘That’s pretty cool!’”
Out of the infirmary, and breaking into the goal-scoring column for the first time this season, counting his first three goals of the season as the Calgary Flames ran riot on a tired, band of Dallas Stars.
On a night when the offence awoke from a short slumber, Jarome Iginla hit briefly back at his critics, Alex Tanguay showed off those sublime passing skills, the goal-starved Cammalleri, a man used to celebrating goals, hit for a hat trick, triggering a small shower of chapeaus onto the Scotiabank Saddledome ice.
That sensation never gets old.
“It does feel good,’’ he acknowledged. “It’s a funny ... something physiological, psychological about the human body, you get a goal and the legs feel a little lighter. You’re playing with your head up a little more. You seem to have a jump in your stride. You’re making better decisions with and without the puck.
“The key is to try and create all those habits when you don’t feel that way.
“But there’s something about scoring a goal, getting a point, contributing the way you do as a player really helps that. That’s the kind of feeling you’re looking for.’’
An old established firm, Iginla and Cammalleri, hooked up to end the sharpshooter’s frustration as the Flames built a 3-0 first-period lead on wild, wacky night at the rink.
Mimicking so many memorable moments in the year Cammalleri hit for 39 as a Flame three seasons ago, the captain scorched a cross-ice powerplay pass that No. 13 deposited handled with aplomb and deposited with dispatch at 9:55 of the first period.
“I caught it on my foot. I actually like it when he does it. That’s kind of vintage Jarome-Cammy stuff. It’s nice to have that kind of confidence in each other, where you can throw each other those hard passes.
“It’s one of our jobs to get it to the other guy. It’s the other guy’s job, from there, to put it in.’’
He struck for his second in the middle stanza, lurking in search of leftovers, and chalked up No. 3 on the night and No. 200 on his career into the vacated Stars’ net at 18:34 of Period 3.
The seven goals represented an eruption for a Flames’ attack that had petered out over the past two games. Might Wednesday represent a launching pad for more big scoring nights?
“I would hope so,’’ replied Cammalleri. “A little bit of an offensive swagger always helps. A little confidence. A little feeling like the puck’s coming to you. And I think as a group you want to build on this and make the expectation - not that you’re going to score seven goals every night - that we’re capable of breaking games when we want to.’’
In truth, Cammalleri’s last start, Feb. 4th at The Joe in Detroit, where he chipped in with three helpers, had been an “I’m back!’’ evening following a sluggish start. But despite the quality of performance that night, that first goal still eluded him.
And then a hip flexor kept him out of the lineup for the past three games.
“One thing about Cammy,’’ said Flames’ coach Bob Hartley, “is that he finds the open areas in the offensive zone so well. Matt Stajan is a great centreman to pass the puck and find the open guys. He’s very creative. I felt throughout the game, Cammy was on the puck. They had a mission to play against Jagr’s line. Not only did they do a great job against them but they also found ways to take advantage.”
“He’s a goal scorer. Those guys, they rate their games by their goal production. Also, what I like about Cammy, is he’s showing pride in his entire game in the three zones. This morning, I told Staje, Stempy, and Cammy you are going to play against (Jaromir) Jagr but I don’t want you to sit back.”
Rebuked early this season for a paltry shot total, Cammalleri fired a game-high five pellets at the unfortunate Mr. Bachman in the Dallas cage, and also added an assist to go along with the three snipes.
And, no, he had absolutely no quibble about scoring his 200th in such a, well, unspectacular fashion. Memorable’s memorable, no matter how.
“You might not believe me, but I got the puck and I was looking for Staje and their D took the pass away so you kind of react to that and just kind of shoot it.
“I’m not Brett Hull. I don’t have 700. So I can’t not take empty-netters.’’
“Didn’t he do that? Didn’t he do that? He wouldn’t shoot in an empty net. That’s a pretty cool story.
“It’s special for sure. I truly believe I’m living a dream playing in this league. Stuff like that makes you reflect a little bit and makes you appreciate what we do.’’
And appreciate what Cammalleri, on song, can add to this group.
Not so very long ago, he was mired in a scoring slump. Now he’s riding a seven-points-in-two-games run heading into Friday’s home date against the St. Louis Blues.
“Funny how things change,’’ he mused. “One of the great coaches I had once - Someone I’m very fond of. He’s in our conference. Gabby. Bruce Boudreau - told me ‘It’s not like a faucet. You can’t turn it on and off.’ So you just keep working at things and doing things the right way and then they eventually start working the way you want them to.
“It’s kind of indictative of our whole group right now. Not just me.’’
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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