Brink of milestones

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Goal No. 29 wasn’t trademark Jarome Iginla.

The Flames captain’s blast ricocheted off a defender’s stick and then smacked Blue Jackets netminder Steve Mason in the right shoulder, skipping high into the air while travelling end-over-end toward the empty net behind him.

Craig Rivet batted it out of the air just as it crossed the goal-line, but the damage was done.

On the verge of changing the record books and adding his name to an exclusive club of NHL snipers who have scored 30 or more goals in 10 straight seasons, Iginla changed the feel of a game that was probably more important than his impending milestone.

Thanks in part to Iginla’s first-period goal, the Flames were able to shake off a lacklustre start and beat the Blue Jackets 4-3, essentially crushing the visitors’ hopes of making the playoffs.

The Flames increased their own aspirations after looking ripe for a letdown early against the Jackets.

Finding themselves in a hole as newcomer Freddy Modin left his man unmarked on the backcheck, the Flames looked disinterested, like they were facing a team beneath them in the standings and expected to win without working for it.

If Olli Jokinen’s tying goal at the 8:13 mark of the first frame gave the Flames a little boost, Iginla’s 44 seconds later was a paddle to their chests that brought them back to life.

Probably not as pretty as most of the previous 28 this season, but big in so many ways.

Even those who find it a little absurd every even-numbered achievement is celebrated in the NHL have to appreciate what Iginla is on the brink of accomplishing.

Only nine others have played a decade scoring 30 or more — Jaromir Jagr, Mike Gartner, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Brett and Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne and Mats Sundin — and Iginla fell just shy of that mark in his two previous seasons before finally hitting the mark during the 2000-01 campaign.

“I can still remember, literally, that first 30th,” Iginla said Friday. “I’m pretty sure it was a backhand from (Marc) Savard. I was on the left post, anyway, in Chicago.”

That was April 7, 2001. What might make it even more special 10 years later is the fact few expected the trend to continue for the 33-year-old.

Just around the corner is another massive milestone.

Iginla’s goal Friday gave him 985 career regular-season points — 15 shy of 1,000.

Not that he’s tracking it.

“I shouldn’t say I never do. I do. At intervals, kind of,” he admitted. “Maybe quarterly during a year or something. Not, like, daily.

“At times, I’ve thought about it and (scoring) just doesn’t seem to happen as well when I get in that mindset.”

Whatever he’s been thinking about this season — or not thinking about — has been working. Fewer than 80 NHLers have made it to 1,000 points. With 15 games remaining and the same number of goals or assists to knock off, there’s a decent chance Iginla could reach it this year.

It’s something he never really thought about when breaking into the league with the Flames in the mid-1990s. Not even after a 21-goal rookie season.

“When you start, you just want to play in the league and make a career and play a number of years,” Iginla said.

“I’ve definitely been really blessed.”

So have the Flames.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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