SUN Hockey Pool

Fine debut? You Brett

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Brett Sutter figured his best Christmas present would be playing his first NHL game.

The real treasure from this season for the Calgary Flames forward is a puck -- his first NHL goal, a key tally that sparked his team to its 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks last night.

A couple of nights earlier, Sutter figured he'd be resting up before returning to the AHL's rigours. Instead, he was the man of the hour and relishing a whirlwind time.

"To be honest, I'm still kinda speechless," he said amidst the euphoria of the dressing room. "There's lots of emotions built up and I'm still kinda shaking, but it's a great feeling. I'm pretty proud to be part of this and glad to have something like this happen to me."

Sutter's tally wasn't the game winner, but was nearly as big. Only 14 seconds after the Flames fell behind early in the third period, he finished a goal-mouth scramble to even the score at two apiece.

The goal, and the subsequent momentum, sparked the Flames to victory and a sellout Saddledome crowd of 19,289 to celebration.

"You're never going to forget your first goal, and I'm glad to be a part of his," said Craig Conroy, who assisted Sutter's tally in a two-point night. "It's always fun to have your hand in there. It wasn't a great pass, but as the years go on, I'll say I slid it over to him through three people."

Sutter, whose father Darryl is the club's GM, said dad may have even cracked a smile when the puck crossed the goal line.

"I doubt it," joked head coach Mike Keenan. "That only tied the game. If it was a go-ahead goal, he might have. It only tied the game, so there's no way."

Mark Giordano's powerplay tally put the Flames ahead for good and Michael Cammalleri's tally a couple of minutes after that held up as the game winner.

Giordano's goal was a huge boost for the club's lagging powerplay, which had only two goals in the previous seven games.

"In the final analysis, that was the difference maker," Keenan said. "We'd been struggling to score powerplay goals recently. I think it always weighs on their minds and the confidence level starts to wane a bit, but that will help them."

The Flames (19-11-4) also vaulted ahead of Vancouver into top spot in the Northwest Division, which may seem like no big deal. It's worth noting the club sitting in that spot on Christmas day in each of the past three seasons has gone on to win the regular season crown.

"It's huge," Conroy said. "We talked about it before, we want to be in first place going into this break. The win's big, too, because we still have three huge games (at home after the Christmas break)."

David Moss, who was also on the line with Conroy and Sutter, scored Calgary's other goal, while Jarome Iginla collected a pair of assists.

Brett Sutter ended up looking like the pure goal scorer by finishing off a pass that was into his stomach. Instead of panicking, he waited for the puck to hit the ice and batted it behind Ducks netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"I knew Giguere was on the other side of the net and I'd have a second there, to get it down," said Sutter, who was using his gloves and skates from his junior days because his gear was in Quad City.

"I tried not to panic and let it fall to the ground. It was kinda bouncing, but I hacked at it and it went in."

Brendan Morrison replied twice for Anaheim, while Ryan Getzlaf scored once for the Ducks (18-14-3).

Sutter's final stats line read 11:45 of ice time, with two shots on goal, one attempt blocked, two missing the net and one hit. He was even on the ice in the final minute. Not a bad first game for a sixth-round draft choice.

"For the most part, I think I played well," Sutter said. "We had that goal scored on us late to make things interesting, but other than that, I think we played pretty well."

Really, who could think of a better debut?

"I can't," he said. "Words can't describe it."


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