CALGARY - With all the moves Calgary has made to shake up its offence, it was a player who has been there all year that ignited the Flames on Wednesday.
Curtis Glencross broke out of a seven-game goalless drought with his first career hat trick to lead the Flames to a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night. "It's something I'll never forget," said Glencross, who upped his goal total to 14 on the season. "It's nice to get that feeling again."
Calgary coach Brent Sutter stressed that the 27-year-old forward has to keep it up for the remainder of the season.
"We expect Curtis to play a certain way every night," Sutter said. "We need him to dig in every game for us. We know he can skate, but he's got to be involved in the game. When he's involved in the game, he thinks the game the right way and he's very responsibly defensively."
Playing on a line with captain Jarome Iginla and fellow newcomer Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan notched the game-winning goal in the second period as Calgary improved to 28-21-8 and overtook the Detroit Red Wings for eighth spot in the Western Conference.
"It's a weight off my shoulders getting that first one," said Stajan, who played his second game as a Flame since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-player trade on Sunday. "Just like the start of the season, you want to get that first one out of the way. More importantly we played a good team game. Our penalty kill was awesome."
Carolina went 1-for-9 on the power play as captain Eric Staal scored lone goal of the game for the Hurricanes (19-30-7) during a second period man advantage.
"We just didn't get enough on the power play," said Staal, who extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games. "We got one, but it would have been nice to get a few more."
The Hurricanes have now lost two straight games following a four-game winning streak.
"We could sit and piss and moan about how poorly we played but Calgary played a good game today," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice. "Hard, fast and disciplined in terms of their positioning and physical."
Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced in the Calgary net to record his 25th win of the season. Carolina netminder Cam Ward finished with 35 saves.
Stajan was acquired along with Hagman, forward Jamal Mayers and blue-liner Ian White in exchange for defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie.
Forward Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins made their debuts for the Flames after being acquired on Monday from the New York Rangers for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.
"I thought they did a good job," said Sutter, who put Daymond Langkow at centre between the two newest Flames. "I thought that Daymond handled it well playing with two new guys."
On the heels of a lacklustre performance during a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers two nights earlier, the Flames showed a lot of jump in the first period.
Following a strong shift by Langkow, Higgins and Kotalik, the checking line of Eric Nystrom, Mayers and Glencross continued to hem the Hurricanes in their own zone.
That pressure paid off as Glencross drove hard towards the net in pursuit of a rebound when the puck deflected off his body and into the Carolina net behind Ward at 2:54 of the opening frame.
Carolina had a great opportunity late in the first period when they were awarded a two-man advantage for 36 seconds, but the Flames managed to kill off the power play.
The Hurricanes evened the score at 7:19 of the second period when Staal deflected a shot by Jussi Jokinen past Kiprusoff on yet another Carolina power play.
With the teams playing four-on-four late in the middle frame, Stajan and Glencross scored goals 52 seconds apart.
While cutting towards the Carolina net on right side, Stajan kicked a pass from Iginla onto his stick before tucking the puck into the far corner. Glencross then took a cross-ice pass from Jay Bouwmeester and blasted a slap shot to the short side past Ward.
Late in the second period, defenceman Mark Giordano drew a thunderous round of applause from the sold-out crowd of 19,289 fans in attendance when he checked Carolina defenceman Joni Pitkanen head over heels into his own bench.
On the play, Pitkanen's skate blade cut Staal in the face.
"When he got hit, he caught me in the cheek," explained Staal. "I'm lucky it didn't get worse, actually. It just kind of scraped the skin - not my cheek bone hanging out, so I feel better about that anyway."
Glencross then rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 18:58 of the final frame.
"I was surprised, I didn't even know the goalie was out," Glencross said. "I thought I just had a breakaway."
Notes: Defenceman Joe Corvo returned to the Carolina lineup after missing 28 games due to a leg injury he sustained when he was cut by Washington defenceman Karl Alzner's skate during a home game against the Capitals on Nov. 30. ... After recording just 18 shots on net against Philadelphia on Monday, the Flames surpassed that total by the 12 minute mark of the second period. ... In the first period, a young Calgary fan was spotted in the stands holding up a sign that said "We still believe." ... The Flames are now 3-9-3 in their past 15 games.