Blockbuster sequel

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The first ovation came before puck drop, as Heather Liscano belted out the national anthem.

Thirty-eight seconds later, they roared again when he took to the ice for the first time since Monday's trade.

Drawing vociferous praise on the ensuing shift for everything from winning the draw and making a pass to the simple act of exiting the ice, the Craig Conroy love-in had only just begun.

And while a token Conroy jersey giveaway pumped even more noise into the building six minutes in, nothing was louder than the scream from the unofficial host of Fan Appreciation Night when he scored ... the first time.

With five goals in his previous 52 outings, not even he could've guessed another would follow.

And he thought Monday's trade back to Cowtown was the biggest thrill of his career.

"Tonight was a special night for me -- I won't be able to sleep tonight," said Conroy, who pumped his fist in the air and gave 'er the ol' 'friggin right!' as part of a city-wide celebration that saw him return to the bench with a smile near tears.

"It's been a long season and it hasn't been a lot of fun so it was pretty emotional sitting there -- the crowd going and just being back. I thought the crowd might cheer but it just gave me goosebumps to be out on the ice with the sea of red ... I was like 'geez I've got to focus' as there were a lot of emotions."

What followed his first snipe was a hearty "Conroy" chant and two stellar Miikka Kiprusoff saves that brought down the house -- a development that continued the rest of the night. Just like old times.

Oh, and then late in a 3-1 game, he scored again.

"I couldn't have scripted it any better if I tried -- against my old team," said Conroy, embracing Harvey the Hound when introduced as the game's second star.

"I'm a proud person like anybody -- I wanted to prove people wrong and I don't know if I proved anything in one game tonight but I needed this for my confidence."

Adding irony to the dramatics, the last time he scored was 22 games earlier in the same building against Kiprusoff and the Flames. One game in and he already has more goals than Jamie Lundmark who went the other way in Monday's deal with L.A.

What's more, few know the evening's game-winning goal-scorer, David Moss, came to the Flames as a seventh-round draft pick thrown in with Conroy for Cory Stillman.

"Everything about tonight surpassed expectations," said Conroy, who spent four of his 20 minutes killing penalties.

"That's the most I've played in three months. It's fun to be back."

As if to remind fans Daymond Langkow will not be supplanted as the club's top centre, Conroy was not introduced as a starter as fans had hoped. Instead, the man who turned an otherwise blase Tuesday night tilt into a memorable, fan-friendly fiesta centred the second line between Alex Tanguay and Tony Amonte.

With his two new teammates as bookends he did what he so typically did in his three-and-a-half years here: His job. Acquired to add depth, versatility and familiarity to a Flames team being ramped up for a playoff run, Conroy found himself on the second unit last night, which could all change since Langkow left the game in the third with an apparent injury.


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