Grand theft Chicago

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

CHICAGO -- This season's momentum was appearing to possibly be gone for good with the first two games of this road trip.

The game's momentum was also going against the Calgary Flames the way their first period played out against the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday.

Talk about a perfect time for Jarome Iginla to pull out his Captain Fantastic routine.

The Flames, in need of a boost with the game tied 1-1, received just that shortly after the intermission when Iginla created a breakaway for himself by stealing the puck at his own blueline and scoring to break open the game en route to a 4-2 victory yesterday afternoon in the Windy City.

"I stole the puck there, but those don't happen every day," Iginla said with a shrug on the play that led to his 45th tally of the season.

"I happened to guess right, to read that play. They go d-to-d a lot to spread you out, and that one I just happened to guess right. It was sure nice, the beginning of the second period, to get that. And then we followed it up."

They followed it up with two goals, which snapped the club's two-game losing streak on what was looking like a road trip out of the playoffs.

Kristian Huselius and Dion Phaneuf also tallied in the second period to give the Flames a three-goal lead in front of a sellout crowd of 20,717 at the United Center.

The Blackhawks frantically pushed to draw back, and made it a two-goal game on Robert Lang's early third-period goal, but after failing to hold leads against Washington and Atlanta in the first two parts of this road swing, the Flames shut the door, thanks in big part to goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

"These games are difficult in any environment, but they were really pumped up because they had the sell-out. I'm sure that would energize a young group like that," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "Scoring early in both periods makes a big difference, particularly if there is momentum they may have gained. We took it away."

As expected considering the failures that preceded the matinee, the Flames had a fast start before a raucous crowd and were rewarded for it when former Blackhawk Adrian Aucoin drilled a powerplay goal before the two-minute mark.

But the Hawks, their season pretty much on the line sitting seven points back of a playoff spot with 10 games left, weren't ready to go gently.

Just past the midway point of the opening frame, Jonthan Toews -- one of Chicago's super rookies -- drew the hosts even with a powerplay goal of his own.

The shot clock read 9-5 in Calgary's favour after the opening frame, but it was obvious the young Blackhawks were holding the momentum. Nice timing for Iginla, on a torrid scoring pace of late, to step forward.

"Absolutely. He's come up with some big goals for us all year," said forward Owen Nolan. "We're an older team and we should know by now one goal doesn't change the game. We've got to continue to play the same type of hockey: Physical, get the puck deep and stay with the same things. (The Hawks are) a young team, they will make mistakes, so you have to capitalize on them."

Still, the Blackhawks didn't go away completely, firing 17 third-period shots.

"If you're implying we played poorly, I don't think we did," Keenan said. "We knew, they were going to stretch their offensive players to the far blueline, which they did."

Calgary (37-25-10) pulled in a three-way tie with Minnesota and Colorado for the Northwest Division lead, while Chicago (34-32-7) saw its playoff hopes all but mathematically die. Not that any Flames feel guilty.

"We're in no position to say we don't need the points as much as they need them," said left-winger Alex Tanguay. "We're in no way sure of a playoff spot, so we're battling for the same thing as they are.

"We still have a chance to battle for first in the division, which would mean home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs."


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