Fleury returns in style

Flames' Theo Fleury blows a kiss to the fans after scoring in the shootout during pre-season action...

Flames' Theo Fleury blows a kiss to the fans after scoring in the shootout during pre-season action on Thursday. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

They arrived in droves wearing sweaters that hadn't seen the light of day for years.

Some probably even smelled of mothballs.

But they came to see an old hero make his return.

Theoren Fleury delivered.

With his usual flair for the dramatic, Fleury scored the lone shootout goal in Calgary's 5-4 pre-season victory over the New York Islanders last night, exactly what the Saddledome faithful wanted.

"When I was told to go out," Fleury responded when asked what went through his mind, "I was thinking I'd better score here."

He did.

Fleury didn't have a whole lot of impact over the first 65 minutes, but that didn't matter in the end.

The club's former all-time leading scorer, who is trying to return to the league after six years away, deked Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin to his forehand and slipped home a shot.

When David Shantz secured the win by stopping Greg Moore on the Islanders' final attempt, the place erupted with fans cheering his name.

Fleury responded by clapping his hands and saluting the crowd.

"It was pretty unanimous on the bench. The players wanted him to shoot," said head coach Brent Sutter.

"It was the right thing to do.

"Hey, why not?"

The fans were hoping for it ever since it became known Fleury would play, and the buildup was there all game.

The first cheer of consequence came when the former captain was shown on the big screen during the national anthem.

When he took to the ice on a line with Daymond Langkow and Nigel Dawes 84 seconds into the game, the first "The-O" chant rang out and applause greeted his every move.

Fleury settled in during the second period, probably a product of the jitters dissipating and knocking away some of the rust, and had a couple of scoring chances, but his only entry on the scoresheet before the shootout was due to a two-minute trip to the sin bin for a hooking infraction.

He saved the best moment for last, although one even he couldn't have imagined a few years ago.

"It's been a long road back and I'm extremely proud of myself and my family. They've been tremendous through this whole process," he said.

"We started a concrete business and none of us knew anything about it. It just shows my family and all the crazy ideas I've had in the past, they've always gone along with it because they believe in me."

Olli Jokinen scored twice, while Dawes and David Moss added singles for Calgary.

Dawes and Jokinen had three-point nights.

However, the game featured a scary moment when Dion Phaneuf caught Kyle Okposo with an open-ice check.

Okposo had to be carted off on a stretcher.

New York's Pascal Morency left the bench to try exacting a pound of flesh, but the fireworks were kept relatively in check.

"I thought it was a clean hit. I stepped up and used my shoulder," Phaneuf said.

"You don't like to see guys get hurt, but that's part of my job when the hits are there, to take them."

Islanders officials said Okposo was able to move his arms and legs, but was taken to hospital for observation.

Even if Phaneuf's check is ruled clean, the Islanders weren't happy.

"If you're going to do that, at least respond to the challengers after that," said goalie Martin Biron, who left his crease to join the fracas.

"I've never seen Scott Stevens back down to a fight after he hit a guy on the blue-line coming across. If you're going to play that way, then be the whole package and play that way, and that's where we had a big problem with that."

Matt Moulson scored twice for the Islanders, who also received singles from Trevor Smith and Blake Comeau.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA

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THEO WATCH

What he did in last night's game

- Skated on a line with Nigel Dawes and Daymond Langkow.

- Not that anybody should have realistically expected some old Theo offensive magic, but you knew they were hoping, especially when he had a couple of second-period scoring chances. One shot went right into the mid-section of Isles netminder Martin Biron. Another went wide.

Final numbers

- 10:56 of ice time, one

shot on goal, one missed shot, one takeaway, one

hit. Scored shootout

winner.


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