CALGARY, AB -- Blueliner Steve Staios has been played in some pretty important games in his career.
He was perched on the point during the Edmonton Oilers run to the Stanley Cup in 2006. He has played in 33 games in the IIHF's World Championships. He contributed in 41 playoff outings during his tenure in the Ontario Hockey League.
However, the highlight of his career may just be his 56th career tally, scored in a seemingly innocuous regular season tilt.
With just 1:55 left in regulation and down 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers, Staios sniped just his third goal of the season and allowed his club to push the contest into extra time. The Flames capped off their improbable third period comeback with a 5-4 shootout victory on Saturday night.
"I scored a playoff goal in our run in the West finals but I think the goal the other night was the biggest of my career," he said, unable to wipe the grin off his face. "We were down 4-1 and you're sitting on the bench going 'This isn't happening. This can't happen.' To have it change in that short of period of time was really exciting for us."
The goal came after a very unusual shift for the stay-at-home defenceman.
"They were playing us pretty tight on the point so I just tried to follow the play in," he explained. "I was roaming around on that shift. I was in the left corner, I was behind the net and made a play to Glenny that didn't work out."
After the puck bounced off the back boards, Rene Bourque took a swipe at it from the side of the net. He pushed it towards Staios, who was hovering near the faceoff circle and when the puck landed on his stick, he didn't waste any time firing it past Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk.
The shot wasn't just an instinctual need to send the puck on net. Staios knew exactly where he needed to put it if his team had any hope of tying the contest up.
"Just right when it came to me, I had that side open. It was right there for me, I knew I had to go far-side with it.
"I can't remember having a better feeling after a goal, I'll tell you that."
At the start of the season, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would have thought the 37 year-old would have been on the ice in the dying minutes of a must-win game.
A healthy scratch for much of the first portion of the campaign, Staios spent most of his time in arenas in the press box, watching his team languish through their lackluster beginning of the season.
"It's always been about the team for me. It's never been about anything else," he stated. "I've been around a long time where I've seen guys go through challenges and not handle it the right way. I was definitely challenged at the beginning of the year.
"I was waiting for an opportunity. I did my best to stay positive and be a good teammate. Some days were tougher than others but overall, you just try as fit as you can physically and as positive as you can mentally. That helped me through it."
In February, his opportunity came.
Adam Pardy was struck with an upper-body injury and the Flames needed an extra body on the blueline. With youngsters Brendan Mikkelson and Brett Carson also battling for a spot in the lineup, Staios knew he needed to impress every night if he wanted to stay playing.
He's been able to do just that. Staios is able to bring a sense of stability and reliability on the backend and has been rewarded with more minutes and being placed in high-pressure situations. He hasn't looked at all out of place in any scenario, something the defenceman credits to experience.
"I think with experience you get that type of confidence. I don't know of any time in my career where I never wanted to be in those situations. I always push myself to want to be on the ice in the big situations.
"It's the time where if you're afraid of failure at that point, you're not going to be effective for your team. You may as well be pushing forward and wanting the puck and being aggressive and being confident."
That assurance in his ability played a huge role in his Saturday night tally. If the Flames make the postseason, it could be the most important goal scored this season - a fact that hasn't escaped Staios.
"I hope so" he smiled. "It was really just an incredible feeling. Going back to Edmonton, where I have some great memories and had a great time, and to be able to score a big goal like that in that building was big for us, with our backs up against the wall ... I hope we can use that to get into a run."