SUN Hockey Pool

It's gotta star(t) somewhere

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

PHOENIX -- Talk all you want about the depth on the team, the Calgary Flames' success hinges on the perfomance of two players more than any others.

Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

That's never been more noticeable than Thursday night during the comeback victory over the Predators in Nashville.

Plugging away to score five straight goals after falling behind 3-0 in a span of less than two-and-a-half minutes early in the second period, the Flames got the kind of win veteran Craig Conroy said after the game can turn a season around.

If it does seem as though the Flames' year is turning around for the better after a tumultuous start, it's because their best players are playing at their best.

With four goals in his last two games -- both Flames victories -- Iginla has provided the spark to help his team overcome deficits.

His hat-trick in Nashville was special because the goals all came at key moments. Head coach Mike Keenan said yesterday getting a goal before the end of the second period was a big turning point.

That came courtesy of an Iginla wrist-shot over goaltender Dan Ellis' right pad and under the blocker.

A goal-scorer's goal if there ever was one.

Bringing the Flames to within one by poking in a rebound in the third period, Iginla capped off the night with an empty-netter that sealed the comeback win.

Sure, you can credit the Flames' special-teamers with a big assist as they overcame a couple of 5-on-3 Preds advantages.

Robyn Regehr, Wayne Primeau, Dustin Boyd, Cory Sarich and Dion Phaneuf all spent more than four minutes on kills, but it was the guy out there for every second of nine Predators powerplays who deserves the most credit.

"The best penalty killer on our team is our goaltender, Miikka," said Regehr, who racked up eight minutes of ice time while the Flames were a man down.

Like Iginla, Kiprusoff's last two outings have been his best so far this season.

It's no coincidence both have been victories.

While the defensive play in front of Kiprusoff was much improved in Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals, a 2-1 effort, you can't say the same for the first couple of periods in Nashville.

Kiprusoff was consistent, and the Flames netminder looked more comfortable making the tough saves than he has so far this season.

"It's always all together, but I've been feeling pretty good," said Kiprusoff when asked whether it was the team playing better or his own improvement that's making a difference for him right now.

"What can you do? Just keep working and keep winning. That's the main thing. We've got two wins in a row, and maybe we're learning from some of those wins."

The fans are once again learning the value of their star players.

The Flames are learning about how they can feed off those guys and a comeback like Thursday's.

"You can create a lot of momentum, I think, during a season by going through certain situations. One of them is facing adversity and overcoming that in order to win," said Regehr.

"I think we did that (Thursday) night somewhat.

"We're excited, but it's important to still realize that there is work to do."

Keenan didn't go as far as Conroy in saying it can turn a season around, but called it a "building block."

"We're going to go through a lot of different scenarios on the ice that this group has to come together and come to grips with," said Keenan.

"They found out more about their teammates, and that's an important step in the evolution of the team and the growth of the team."

Starting, of course, with its stars.


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