Phaneuf delivers winner

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

He needs one more goal to match his age but Dion Phaneuf should be happy with 20.

After all, it's not often a defenceman scores that many -- especially in his freshman year.

Only two NHLers -- Brian Leetch and Barry Beck -- managed to do it before the Calgary Flames' star pupil, who hit the 20-goal plateau with his second-period tally in the Flames' 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night at the Saddledome.

"It's exciting to get. It's definitely a great honour. It's very nice to be in that group," said Phaneuf, who now trails Detroit Red Wings veteran Mathieu Schneider by a single goal for the lead over his peers this season.

"Guys worked hard in front of the net. Byron Ritchie made a great screen and Chris Simon, with the pass out to me, put it right on my tape."

With slightly more than half the game gone by and an ear-impaling clanger off the iron already to his credit, Phaneuf took the long feed from Simon, tried in vain to settle the wobbling puck, then slapped it high past Avs goaltender Jose Theodore for what proved to be the Northwest Division title clincher.

Phaneuf, who turned 21 days ago, has been turning his teammates' heads all season long. But last night's benchmark left some of them in awe.

"I don't know how tough it is to score 20 cause I've never come close," said fellow blueliner Andrew Ference with a laugh.

"That's 20 with teams keying on him. It didn't take too long for the league to figure out that we like to feed him on the powerplay and get him shooting the puck. To put that many in the net with guys cheating out on you is very impressive."

Darren McCarty did a little math to explain just how impressive the feat is.

"Twenty goals is the benchmark for forwards," he said. "For a d-man, that's like almost putting up 40."

What gets Jarome Iginla is the fact the blazing one-timer comes so easily to the youngster.

"He can one-time anything," said the animated Iginla. "If he gets himself ready (and the puck lands) anywhere around him, it's just BANG.

"He can get everything off. It's his first year and he's got the best one-timer on our team. There's not a bad pass."


Videos

Photos