CALGARY – An old cliché states better late than never. The Calgary Flames aren't about to disagree.
Goals 23 seconds apart from Jarome Iginla and Curtis Glencross in the final minutes of the third period turned what looked to be a regulation loss into a 5-4 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday night.
"It's huge for us, a momentum boost for us," Glencross said. "You look at some of the games earlier in the season and we get down a couple goals and heads kind of go down on the bench. We've been sticking with it and this proves just because you're down a goal doesn't mean you can't get two goals in a couple minutes and we're capable of it. It's a good mental lesson for us."
Down 4-3 with under two minutes remaining, Iginla converted a cross-ice feed from Alex Tanguay with 1:23 left in the game to tie it for Calgary (7-7-3). Before the goal had an opportunity to be announced, Glencross took a feed from Lee Stempniak and hammered home a slap shot from the top of the slot that beat Phoenix starter Mike Smith with exactly one minute remaining in the game to give the Flames their second-consecutive win on home ice.
"It's a big difference in the standings as far as trying to catch teams and also just momentum to build something," Iginla said. "These are two very important wins. It was a wacky game."
The loss comes a day after Phoenix coughed up a two-goal lead to the Edmonton Oilers before eventually losing 3-2 in a shootout.
"We've got to find a way to close these games out," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "That's not who we are as a team and we'll adjust tomorrow.
"Very uncharacteristic of us. That's disturbing that it's happening, but we'll fix it."
Calgary's comeback came after the Coyotes (8-7-3) erased a deficit of their own to start the third.
Nick Johnson put the Coyotes ahead at 8:48. After Paul Bissonnette worked the puck back to Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the point, the Phoenix blueliner threw the puck on net. MacDonald handled the initial shot, but Johnson swept the rebound into the net to make it 4-3.
That lead was quickly erased by Glencross and Iginla, who helped improve the Flames to 4-5-2 on home ice this season.
The Flames opened the scoring early courtesy of an unlikely sniper.
Tim Jackman scored just 2:15 into the game, chipping a backhand under the arm of Smith for his first goal since December 29th, 2011 – a span of 52 games – to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
Combining for just 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes, chances were few from either side. But Matt Stajan and Iginla tried their best to extend Calgary's lead to two at 17:17. Working a give-and-go with Stajan along the goal line, Iginla fired a shot from in close that Smith kicked out to keep it a one-goal game heading into the first intermission.
Shorthanded early in the second period, a holding penalty on Stajan put the Flames down two, but the Coyotes couldn't convert.
Coming out of the box after a successful Flames' kill, Stajan broke up a play heading up ice before both skates hit the ice and was immediately whistled for interference. And with Stajan back in the box, the Coyotes struck.
Winning the ensuing faceoff, Michael Stone – who played his junior with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League – uncorked a blast from the point that was blocked, but the puck ricocheted off the skate of Jay Bouwmeester and behind MacDonald at 5:32 to tie the game 1-1.
"The explanation is you can't touch the puck until your skates are on the ice but I did ask, I said ‘so I can launch myself into the guy and its no penalty', and he says ‘well, yeah'," Stajan said. "The rule book states you just cant touch the puck. The refs got it right, give them credit. It is frustrating because it changed momentum at the time in the game."
Phoenix added another on the heels of an expiring penalty for a faceoff violation by Mike Cammalleri. Former Flames forward Matthew Lombardi hit Torres cutting through the slot with a pass, who quickly went forehand-to-backhand to slide the puck by MacDonald for his first of the game to make it 2-1 at 14:01.
Iginla answered for Calgary just 2:25 later, poking a puck loose in the crease through Smith to restore the tie and Cammalleri gave the Flames lead with 34.3 seconds remaining in the period.
Smith stopped Stempniak on the doorstep with his paddle, but Cammalleri converted a Glencross pass over the goalie's shoulder to make it 3-2. Glencross recorded his 100th career assist and 200th career point on the play.
"Obviously it's a milestone, but hopefully there's many more milestones to come," Glencross said.