Johnson: Oscar-worthy finish for Flames caps wild game
Calgary’s NHL team on a high after crazy comeback caps one of the weirdest nights you’ll see on ice
On a night when new releases, serious themes such as Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, were vying for the coveted statuettes at the Kodak Theatre in L.A., the Scotiabank Saddledome decided to screen a spritzer-down-the-slacks slapstick comedy from the ’60s.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
The only thing that could’ve added to the general insanity was the Benny Hill Yakety Sax theme song as accompaniment.
“Sometimes,” said daddy Michael Cammalleri, toting toddler daughter Chole in a buoyant Calgary Flames’ dressing room, “we have a tendency to over-analyze. To pick things apart. Dissect too much. Find fault here and there.
“But sometimes ... hey, that’s just sports.
“Would we like to tighten it up in a few places? Yeah. Sure. Obviously. But you’ve got to love our compete to get back in that game and win it. So I don’t think we’re going to be beating ourselves up too much.
“There are nights when you just don’t want to delve too deep into ‘why’ or ‘how.’ You’re just glad you did.”
And this was one of those nights?
“This,” he replied, flashing that tooth-deprived Dead End Kid grin, “was one of those nights.”
“I hope,” joked Flames’ coach Bob Hartley, relishing his Flames’ Twilight Zone-esque 5-4 shading of the Phoenix Coyotes, “there were not too many cardiacs in the building.”
Call for the defibrillator paddles! Jarome Iginla ties the count 4-4 just when it appeared the locals had frittered the points way, then Curtis Glencross pounds the winner past an unusually-suspect Mike Smith in the Coyotes net.
The Iginla goal came at 18:37 of the third period, Glencross’s at 19 minutes.
They may be look back on those 23 seconds as pivotal when all is said and done.
“It’s a great character builder,” lauded Hartley. “We scored two goals late in the game to erase a one-goal deficit and you leave with the win. It seemed like early on we weren’t getting rewarded for those same efforts. Now the hockey gods are paying us back.
“We could feel the tying goal coming. And, obviously after this, it was a new ball game because the guys were in it. The guys were pretty sad to have let go a one-goal lead and suddenly we were down a goal and they kept battling. I really felt our two goals, we really deserved it. They were great efforts. It was a big win.
“Two wins in front of our home fans this weekend, I think it’s a good reward for us and for our fans at the same time.”
For huge chunks of time it seemed as if both sides were trying to recreate Marcel Marceau’s walking-against-the-wind routine. Just giving the illusion of moving ahead; getting somewhere.
“At times in the game, there wasn’t much going for either team,” sighed Matt Stajan. “It just seemed so ... clogged up. Maybe part of that was fatigue from (Saturday). I’m just happy we took advantage of it one more time than they did.
“Thank god for our play in the last five minutes of the final two periods. That was the difference.”
So the Flames are back to .500. Heading out on a two-game road junket flush with their first back-to-back wins on home ice this season.
“Now,” said Cammalleri, “you’re thinking positive. You’re moving forward.
“There were a lot of mental mistakes tonight. More than physical. Like my penalty” — delay of game, for using a hand to move the puck inside the faceoff circle. “I know you can’t do that.
“But, yeah, there was some weird stuff going on.”
Such as: Penalties for people (namely Stajan) out of penalty time but still technically in the penalty box as he batted the puck away from an astounded Keith Yandle. ’Yotes goalie Mike Smith, charging out to beat Lee Stempniak to a loose puck, whiffing on his clearing attempt, the puck miraculously skittering off his right skate and not into a yawning cage. For long stretches, more whistles than completed passes. Paul Bissonette, yes BizNasty2point0 himself, channelling his inner Patrick Kane, sweeping around the Calgary net to set the wheels in motion on what was shaping up as the game-winning goal.
Yes, THAT weird.
“In the book, it’s a penalty,” said Stajan of his sentence. “You need both skates on the ice before you can touch the puck is the explanation I got. I’ve seen teams get warnings for it in the past. But after watching the replay, it was a penalty.
“That’s just instinct. You’re jumping out of the box and going after the puck. I don’t agree with the rule. I can jump into the guy and blindside him and it’s not a penalty, the ref said.
“But if you touch the puck, it is.
“A rule’s a rule. I guess.”
And a win is ... well, you get the picture. Particularly for a team that continues to fight an uphill battle to crack the Top 8, points to make up and a cluster of teams to leapfrog.
“Obviously getting the two points is the main thing,” said Stajan, “but winning that game in regulation is huge. Huge. Bigger than anyone might think.
“That hockey team always seems to get it to overtime. Every year we rely on them to lose one or two more and they always seem to get that extra point. So the fact that we could pull that out in regulation speaks volumes for our desperation.
“We needed it. We played like we needed it and that’s why we got it.”
If he was watching somewhere out in Parksville, B.C., on Sunday night, 89-year-old Howie Meeker probably junked his famous telestater in disgust. The Flames and ’Yotes looked like two teams playing their second game in as many days As, indeed, they were.
Sloppy. Disjointed. Poorly paced. Badly edited and directed. Chock full of gaping plot holes between the opening and closing credits.
But the ending? Brother, if you’re a Flames’ fan, that was worthy of an Oscar.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
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