SUN Hockey Pool

Close call in Flames win

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

For half the game, the Calgary Flames looked like a runaway train.

Then, they nearly went off the tracks.

Still, Calgary head coach Mike Keenan was happy to walk away relatively unscathed from last night's 7-6 victory over the Nashville Predators.

"You're glad when they're over, trust me, when you're coaching a game like that," Keenan said. "You see them from time to time in the National League, there was one last week with Vancouver and Anaheim, and we come out on the right side of it and you're glad it's over with.

"You always view it as a positive when you pick up the two points, and we did some things really well. We had some individual efforts that were great.

"We got a little bit sloppy as you could see and it snowballs the other way, but you take the two points."

So often, meetings between the Flames and Preds end up wild and woolly affairs, but usually thanks to a stream of dust-ups.

Instead, the sellout crowd of 19,289 at the Saddledome saw their beloved charges roar out to a five-goal lead, fritter some of it away with penalties, pull away again, but then end up clinging to victory.

"It was frustrating to have a big lead like that and let them back in the game," said left winger Rene Bourque. "Everybody kinda lost focus for a while and that can't happen. We're lucky there wasn't too much time left at the end, and we escaped with the win."

By the first intermission, a nailbiter seemed remote at best.

Craig Conroy, on the heels of an admittedly "awful" performance two night's earlier against Phoenix, scored twice, while Bourque and Cory Sarich added singles to chase Nashville starter Pekke Renne at intermission.

Jarome Iginla scored the first of his two goals in a four-point night, made it 5-0 a couple of minutes into the middle frame and it appeared the rout was on.

Instead, a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to Dion Phaneuf that sandwiched Jim Vandermeer's hooking infraction led to five-on-three powerplay goals by Martin Erat and Jason Arnott, before Shea Weber pulled Nashville within a pair.

That's when Daymond Langkow stopped the bleeding and Iginla's second made it a 7-3 affair.

Who'd have guessed Iginla's would end up the game-winner?

David Legwand, Vernon Fiddler -- on penalty shot -- made Weber's second of the night with 20 seconds remaining put fear into the Flames' hearts.

But that's as close at it came.

"Weird day," said Iginla, who finished with four points. "They pushed back, then we'd push again. We did a great job of responding all night until the last few minutes. They gave us more of a scare, I'm sure for our fans, too, than we'd have liked.

"It was closer than we'd like, but for a lot of the game we did a lot of good things. They're a very hungry team, coming out of Vancouver not happy, we knew we had to be ready and I thought we were good at the start."

There were a couple of scraps -- Brandon Prust extracted a pound of flesh from Jordin Tootoo and Sarich throttled Joel Ward when the Preds forward didn't take kindly to a crushing check.

Sarich and Ward didn't play in the third period.

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who has started all 14 games this season, finished the night with 23 saves for Calgary (8-5-1).

Ellis blocked 22 shots for the Preds (6-6-1).

The Flames play tomorrow in Columbus and Sunday in Chicago in another weekend road swing.


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