CALGARY – In a near do-or-die, the Calgary Flames did -- by the skin of their teeth.
Struggling to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race after winning just once in their last seven games, the Flames nearly blew a lead for the sixth consecutive game on home ice before holding off the Montreal Canadiens, the last-place team in the East, in a 5-4 victory at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.
"Sometimes when it goes like that you just need to get that one to get over that hump," captain Jarome Iginla said. "It's not pretty but it's still a very important win for us and breaks a bad streak at home and something to build on."
The Flames twice led by multiple goals but had to hang on for dear life for their first win at home since Valentine's Day – a stretch that saw Calgary go 0-2-3 while coughing up leads in each game.
"At home, we know we need to build and put something together so to get that first one in a while, when it's that close at the end maybe there's a little bit of that when the buzzer goes," Iginla said. "Sometimes when it's not going your way you have to find a way to get it done and we did that tonight."
By winning, the Flames improved to 72 points, 11th in the West but just two points in back of Los Angeles, Colorado and San Jose -- the Sharks own eighth place because they've played 65 games, fewer than the Kings (66), Avs (68) or the Flames (67).
Holding a 2-1 edge heading into the second period after giving up a goal to Tomas Plekanec with just 3.3 seconds remaining in the first, Calgary's advantage completely evaporated after a rare gaffe by goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. From a bad angle, Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty fired a seemingly harmless shot that Kiprusoff juggled before it trickled over the goal line to tie the game at 9:28.
"The one goal, that's one in a million on him," Iginla said. "It's hard to imagine there's a goalie that's been better for his team than he's been for ours."
After seeing leads wiped in each of their last five contests at home, the Flames responded and retook the lead at 13:44. Seconds after Tomas Kaberle's tripping minor expired, Mark Giordano stepped into a Curtis Glencross drop pass and beat goalie Carey Price over the glove to make it 3-2 in favor of the Flames.
Instead of allowing a late goal in the second, the Flames added to their lead with 1:18 remaining. Driving hard around the Montreal net, Iginla wrapped the puck around and through Price, finding the back of the net for his second of the night to make it 4-2 after 40 minutes.
"I haven't actually had too many wrap-around goals," Iginla said. "I can't claim that that's vintage, but we're all trying to put more to the net."
The Flames managed another in the third thanks in part to an assist by Price.
Attempting to clear the zone after a shoot-in, Price backhanded the puck directly onto the stick of Glencross, who buried it into the empty net at 7:16, extending his goal-scoring streak to five games.
"I just kind of got it and shot it," Glencross said. "I didn't want to waste any time. It was a pass where he put it right on my tape so I was lucky enough to be able to shoot it right away."
Lars Eller quickly brought the Habs back to within two. After fanning on his initial attempt after gaining the Flames zone, Eller corralled the puck and put it on net, hitting a Calgary defender on its way and slipping through Kiprusoff at 8:57 to make it 5-3.
Concerned about his team letting another lead slip away in the third period, Calgary coach Brent Sutter called a timeout immediately following the goal.
But Montreal was able to claw its way to within one with 7:54 remaining in the game. A P.K. Subban wrist shot from the point caused a crease scramble that allowed Pacioretty to bang home his second of the night.
It was as close as Montreal would get despite pressure with Price on the bench for the extra attacker.
"We play hard in spurts and then we make mental errors that always cost us the game," said Price, whose clearing error stood up as the game winner. "That's just the way it's been going this year."
"When you score four goals and when you throw pucks at the net and you do that stuff, we get the results," he said. "At the same time, we did a lot of things that wasn't good enough in our own end that gave it away. It's hard to catch up three goals in one period. We put ourselves in a tough position."