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Iginla Scores Historic 600th NHL Goal

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Scoring in the National Hockey League isn't easy. It takes some skill, great teammates and a little luck.

Jarome Iginla's 600th career goal was a little bit of all three.

"It was a great bounce on the goal," Iginla said with his trademark smile on full display. "I feel very blessed to get [to the milestone]. I've played with some great passers, and [this goal] reminds me of that."

Iginla registered the last tally in the Colorado Avalanche's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center on Monday night, and it might have come in the perfect scenario with a little less pressure score.

With Colorado sitting comfortably ahead, head coach Patrick Roy left Iginla on the ice a little longer than usual during a power play late in the third period, perhaps hoping that the 38-year-old would make history. He did.

Iginla took a pass from Tyson Barrie, skated down the left side and threw the puck in front from below the circle. Looking for Matt Duchene, who was standing in front, or Gabriel Landeskog, who was stationed at the far side, Iginla's pass took a detour off Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin's skate and slid across the goal line.

It wasn’t a typical goal, but one that was eerily similar to Iginla's 500th while he was a member of the Calgary Flames. For that milestone on Jan. 7, 2012, his pass in front went off two Minnesota Wild players' skates before settling into the net.

"I definitely [didn't] want to cheer too early, just in case it did go off one of our guys," he said. "I believe it was Landy in front and Dutch was going to it, and they were both looking at me. I thought I saw it that way, kind of unconventional. When I got my 500th, it went off somebody else too. A pretty moldy goal, but you'll take them all. I'm not picky. It felt good, and they all feel good."

Iginla was mobbed by his five other teammates on the ice before the rest of the Avalanche bench players jumped over the boards to congratulate him on the historic occasion. The crowd at Pepsi Center gave him a standing ovation as he waved from the bench before refocusing on the remaining 6:58 of the game.

"It was neat to get it here at home. The fans were great, and I appreciate that," said Iginla, who had his wife and three kids watching from the stands. "Those are things that one day, I'll appreciate it today, but also remember one day."

The tally also had significance as it was Iginla's 182nd power-play goal of his 19-season career, breaking a tie with Mike Bossy for 26th place.

Iginla now has 600 goals and 647 assists after playing in his 1,432nd career game on Monday night. He tied Mike Gartner for 24th place on the all-time games-played list and joined the Hockey Hall of Famer as a member of the exclusive 600-goal club.

The Edmonton, Alberta, native is the 19th player to have reached the mark and the first to do it since Teemu Selanne scored his milestone marker in 2010. Currently, Iginla and Florida's Jaromir Jagr (735) are the only active players to score 600 or more.

Iginla said it's a surreal feeling to be part of the same conversation as Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Brett Hull, Phil Esposito, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and current Avs general manager Joe Sakic.

"When I started, I didn't think I was going to get to 600 or 500," he said. "You just play and you want to be in the league and you want to win and you want to be a part of the NHL. Each year goes by, and you keep going, keep battling and time flies and stuff. Now it's one of those things that I never would have guessed that (scoring 600 goals), and it's pretty neat."

Iginla is the third player to reach the milestone in an Avalanche uniform, joining Jari Kurri and Sakic. His next marker would tie Kurri (601) for 18th place on the all-time goals list, and he could easily pass Sakic (625) for 15th in the near future.

When Iginla will hang up his skates is anyone's guess as he is one of the better-conditioned athletes on the team and has recorded at least 20 goals in every full season since the 1998-99 campaign. He led the Avalanche with 29 tallies last year.

"I'm happy for him. Jarome is having a great career," said Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov. "He's still playing. He looks like 25, not 38 years old. It's nice to play with him on the same team. Today is a huge day for him and for his family. He's a great player, nice guy, great teammate. Good for him."

Roy, who faced Iginla while as a goalie in the league before coaching him for the past two seasons, is also proud of his player, who wears an 'A' as one of the club's alternate captains.

"I'm sure it's a great moment in his career," Roy said. "What, he's No. 19 in NHL history to score 600 goals? It's quite something."

Could the right wing get to 700?

"Let's go one at a time if you don't mind," Roy said.

Iginla agrees: "I'm going to work on 601."

Just tallying 600 is a sigh of relief for the forward and the Avs, who have been talking about this moment since he recorded No. 599 on Dec. 27 against Arizona.

Avalanche players admitted after Saturday's loss to Calgary that they might have passed the puck a bit too much in Iginla's direction instead of taking quality shots themselves, hoping that the former Flames captain would record the milestone against his old club.

"It is something that as I approached, I wanted to enjoy it and savior it as it gets closer," Iginla said of the buildup to 600. "But then all of a sudden, you don't want to keep thinking about it and talking about it. You want to get there.

"I tried not to look at it as a relief and stuff, but it's hard… Especially at 599, every time you get a chance, I'm thinking, 'Maybe this will be it, this will be it.' You want to do at home. That wasn't the case until [now], but it's something that when you're really in a groove, you kind of just go and play and stuff. You try not to focus on that, but a little bit of relief. Just now that I've got [600], the guys have been great, and now it's done and time to move forward."

Iginla said he'll look back on this night fondly, but that will be after the season. There is still plenty of work ahead for the club in the final 42 contests of the regular season.

Colorado's victory ended a four-game winless streak at home and keeps the team in the thick of things for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Avalanche has two more important home games this week against division foes St. Louis and Nashville.

"When it comes down to it, it's about winning games and everything like that," Iginla said. "This is a big week for us. Playing the Kings, a top team, you know when you play them you got to battle, you got to compete, and I thought all the guys, everyone showed up tonight, had a real good effort and the start of a very important week. We need to start climbing back and catching some teams."

While the focus now turns to Wednesday night against the Blues, Monday's milestone moment is a little nicer with it coming in a victory and helping the Avs close the gap for a wild-card spot with the Predators.

"Absolutely, the win makes it way sweeter," Iginla said of celebrating 600 goals in a happy Avalanche locker room. "I feel very fortunate that it is part of a win and being able to be at home."

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