CALGARY -- Eric Nystrom didn't get his hat trick, but his Calgary Flames teammates were still tipping their caps in his general direction.
Nystrom, the young Calgary Flames forward, appeared to have his first career NHL hat trick Tuesday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome – with an apparent redirection providing the winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
But even if the goal was later credited, correctly, to Flames defenseman Staffan Kronwall, the Flames' fourth line of Nystrom, Fredrik Sjostrom and Brandon Prust was receiving credit for something more important – the energy that carried Calgary to its third straight win to begin the 2009-10 season.
"Well, I don't want to say it's a pleasant surprise, because then you'd think I'm surprised," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "I'm pleasantly happy that they've been playing that way.
Again, their detail, their work ethic, their commitment to sacrifice has been very good. And they're being rewarded for it."
The Flames, slow out of the gate in recent years, are 3-0-0 for the first time since the 1993-94 season. The Canadiens, who play in Vancouver on Wednesday night, fell to 2-1-0.
Not only did the Flames' so-called energy line of Nystrom, Sjostrom and Prust account for three of the club's goals, but Nystrom and Prust both dropped the gloves, fighting Montreal's Kyle Chipchura and Gregory Stewart, respectively, for an appreciative audience of 19,289 fans.
"A pretty good night for our line," beamed Nystrom, 26, the son of former New York Islanders icon Bob Nystrom and a third-year left-winger. "I just like how we played. Those guys (Prust and Sjostrom) are so fast, it's hard to play against guys who skate like that. They're smart with the puck, good at cycling. From that, we can generate some chances."
Nystrom had opened the scoring 8:17 into the first by taking Kronwall's point shot in the crest, corralling the puck, spinning and firing high over the blocker of Jaroslav Halak.
His second goal of the night tied the score at 2-2 midway through the second period, with Adam Pardy's point shot hitting Nystrom in the leg before carrying upward and finding room under Halak's right arm.
The winner, at 2:16 of the third, was originally credited to Nystrom, but in fact it was Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges who inadvertently tipped a shot by Kronwall.
"Huge momentum from the fights. It was a great game for them," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who scored his first goal of the season on a second-period power play that gave Calgary a 3-2 lead.
"When they not only got out and play with energy, but also get the results, like they have in the first three games, it's a huge swing."
The Canadiens got all their offence in the waning moments of the periods.
At the end of the first, the Habs tallied twice within 32 seconds to take a 2-1 lead into the locker-room. At 18:47, former Flames 39-goal man Michael Cammalleri intercepted a pass up the boards and fed Scott Gomez, who pulled the trigger and found room up under the crossbar.
Then, at 19:19, Guillaume Latendresse took a rebound, cruised through the slot, and nudged the puck past an out-of-position Miikka Kiprusoff.
With just 11 seconds remaining in the second, Montreal center Tomas Plekanec stepped out from behind the net and, while being watched by Robyn Regehr, lifted a seeing-eye backhander off the near post and then went off Kiprusoff's back and into the net.
"It was a good effort by Tomas to get us back in a tie situation," said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. "Some mistakes by our fourth line tonight ended up costing us. We were sloppy in our own end at times. It was just a lack of focus, and it cost us a couple of goals."
Kiprusoff preserved the win with a handful of big third-period saves, including a pair on Cammalleri. He stopped 27 pucks on Tuesday, 15 of them in the final period.
And just as the Flames' fourth line played heroes on Tuesday, so too did the third defensive pairing of Kronwall and Adam Pardy.
Pardy, the big Newfoundlander, tallied two assists. Kronwall, the brother of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, doubled his career NHL point total with the winning goal and a helper.
Kronwall's only other point had come back during the 2005-06 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Obviously, I'm very happy. (I scored) my first NHL goal, which is very special for me," said Kronwall, 27. "It's a good start to the season, and hopefully I can keep improving."
-- Todd Kimberley, NHL.com Correspondent