Third line's the charm

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Jarome Iginla got his silver stick, Olli Jokinen got a hero's welcome and the Flames finally got a chance to exhale thanks to the last trio of players anyone in Calgary expected to make a breathless play.

However, with eight minutes left in a 1-1 game that had many in attendance starting to whisper about the ever-narrowing three-point gap between the Flames and the Canucks, three muckers combined for a play that will have the city talking today.

It started when minor-league journeyman Warren Peters forced a turnover in the Dallas zone with a big hit on Joel Lundqvist that saw the puck trickle out towards the blueline.

Mere inches before it finished passing through the blue paint, Dustin Boyd made a desperate lunge to keep the puck in, making a one-handed pass past a defender to a streaking Eric Nystrom.

A few strides later, Nystrom buried it past Marty Turco to break the Dallas hex, stop the bleeding on a four-losses-in-five-games stretch and send the crowd to its feet with the game-winner.

"My eyes were as wide as basketballs," said Nystrom of the brilliant pass from Boyd.

"I had a huge head of steam and I knew if he could get it to me I'd be pretty much alone. Boydie made a great play, passed it under the guy's stick and I took a quick shot to try to surprise (Marty) Turco and stuffed it between his pads. It felt pretty good."

In the latter stages of a regular season that has many believing the Flames finally have the depth to make another Stanley Cup run, it was about time the depth-guys proved just that with the type of timely scoring effort fourth-line heroes like Ville Nieminen and Shean Donovan made in 2004.

"It's always the unexpected player who comes through in playoff hockey," said coach Mike Keenan following the 2-1 win.

"What makes the playoffs so exciting is when you see players who don't play much have big roles or play important parts in games. (Nystrom) had a big goal for us, but he also had a couple of great blocks while penalty killing. It was great for him. A guy who puts so much time and effort into working and playing physical and battling for his teammates, and he's rewarded with a game-winning goal. It's a big boost for him. And well earned."

Known more for being a Justin Timberlake look-alike than as the budding young star he is, Boyd finished the night with two assists thanks to a great give-and-go with Daymond Langkow to help set up Jamie Lundmark's second-period strike. The game's third star also has two big blocked shots.

And while Peters, a veteran of 435 minor-league games, didn't get a point on the evening, his physical play earned him huge kudos from the bench and the stands, where it was evident his forechecking created the game-winner.

"The first line can't score every goal, but for the most part, they have," laughed Nystrom, who made the most of his seven minutes of ice time.

"We need the depth guys to step up, and I don't think we did on that road trip. So it's good for us to score a few goals tonight and take pressure off."

Make no mistake, the pressure is still there by virtue of a Canucks' run that has seen the West Coasters win 15 of 19. But that five-point gap they'll read about this morning for the division title and accompanying home-ice advantage allowed everyone in town to sleep a little better last night.

"It's hard to ignore, but at the same time, it's in our own hands," said Nystrom of their rivals. "We have to just keep winning and improving and this was a good start for us."


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