Byron's jumpin' for joy

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

The celebration was hardly one for the highlight reel.

Byron Ritchie, amidst the jubilation of his third-period shorthanded goal to polish off a 3-0 Calgary Flames win, threw himself backwards into the glass in elation, ended up on his keister and had to pick himself up before celebrating.

"I had a little bit of speed built up and didn't want to run into the boards face-first, so I thought I'd better jump and cushion the impact," he said sheepishly. "The fall was just pure fatigue."

Doesn't matter, not when Ritchie is enjoying the ride of his NHL life.

A three-game goal-scoring streak, with four tallies, is the longest of his NHL career. With seven goals, he's adding to a career high.

Good times for the 29-year-old who's managed to climb from a 13th forward slot to the top lines with right wingers Jarome Iginla and Chuck Kobasew on the shelf.

The best times.

"By a landslide," said hard-working Ritchie. "When you're playing a lot, contributing and the team's winning -- that's the main thing -- it's enjoyable."

Truly, we're talking about the Flames' feel-good story of the year. Cast adrift by the hapless Florida Panthers and grabbed by the Flames before the lockout, Ritchie has made the most from his underdog status. Oh sure, he was a scoring star with Lethbridge before turning pro but that seems like a million years ago. At least it did when he spent all those years bouncing around and waiting for the opportunity he has right now.

"It's nice to see guys like that get an opportunity and do well," said Daymond Langkow. "Playing with Lombo and Tangs (Matthew Lombardi and Alex Tanguay), you couldn't ask for anything more than he's giving right now. He's got more offensive skill, I think, than people give him credit for."

Case in point was last night's goal. Driving to the net at full speed, he took a no-look pass from Lombardi and in a single motion put it past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.

As quickly, Ritchie deflected the praise.

"That play Lombo made, I don't know how he knew I was there," he said. "Not too many guys would make that pass. Unbelievable play by him."

Still, somebody has to put the puck in the net with Iginla and Kobasew, normally the one-two punch on the right wing, out of action and likely for an extended spell.

"Iggy's got awfully big shoes to fill, so I don't know if I'm doing it," Ritchie said. "I think everybody's doing it as a group, stepping up, doing little things and winning tight games with strong defensive play.

"It's a great group effort."

Lost in Ritchie's game were a couple of other impact plays. They don't end up in the box score but he had a key first-period block and also caused momentum with a hard bodycheck that sent Nick Schultz crashing to the ice.

Ritchie's not about to let his scoring stats change his game.

"It feels good to score the goals but if I don't do the little things, playing physical, getting pucks deep, blocking shots, I'm no use to the team," he explained.

"I can't get away from what got me here."


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