SUN Hockey Pool

Weight off Conroy's shoulders

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

CALGARY -- Superstition might be a thing of the past for Craig Conroy -- much like his goal-scoring slump.

His goose egg in the sniper column lasted 36 games before he cracked it for the winning goal in Wednesday's win over the Los Angeles Kings. His superstitious habit lasted about a period the next evening.

Shortly after shedding the new skates he was sporting when scoring that slump-busting first goal of the season against the Kings, Conroy went and added his second of the year in the old pair.

"It was out of pure agony in my feet. That's why I changed," said the admittedly habitual Flames centre of the move that must have been difficult to make despite the pain.

"I've got to break (the new skates) in a little bit better. My feet were killing me. In the second period, I thought I better change them out. Then I just happened to score."

That goal was almost his second game-winner in as many nights, but a late tally by the Oilers spoiled both that potential statistic and backup Flames goaltender Curtis McElhinney's first NHL shutout.

But you still couldn't remove the smile from Conroy's face.

Reacting to Conroy's goals with a standing ovation the first night, and a similarly enthusiastic show of approval the next, the only thing happier than Flames Nation was the scorer himself.

"It does take a lot of weight off your shoulders -- even though (head coach Brent Sutter) was good, saying, 'Ah don't worry about it, eventually you'll score.' " said Conroy.

"This is definitely the longest (drought) of my career, and I'm not a huge goal-scorer. It's frustrating it took that long."

Teammates claim they saw it coming.

But they must have been using a telescope.

"We were all saying 'tonight's the night' for about 20 games," said Conroy's linemate Eric Nystrom, who was on the ice for the first one.

"I didn't realize it was him. When I saw his face, I was so excited."

All are a little relieved, too.

"Guys were joking about it, and fans were coming up and talking to him about it. 'How long is it going to be? Is it going to be tonight?' " said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who knows how Conroy was feeling probably better than anyone else on the team.

"It was definitely a big weight off his shoulders. It was nice to see the fans give him a standing O. I know that meant a lot. It was a big energy boost."

The second goal didn't even seem to be a surprise as he took a feed from Rene Bourque and snapped it past Jeff Deslauriers' glove inside the post.

"Now he's just rolling," Iginla said. "He looks confident, like his 40th goal of the year.

"A lot of the game is confidence and rolls."

"I'm sure he'll be playing a lot more loose out there now," added Bourque, who noted Conroy has been playing pretty well despite not scoring.

But not scoring tends to eat at a player regardless of their role.

"He puts pressure on himself to contribute in that area, too. He was feeling it," said Iginla. "He does hide it well, and he's very professional -- he'd come here and stay positive. We're very happy for him."

Conroy is feeling the love.

"It was great to see how happy the fans were -- because I was pretty happy. The way the guys treated me, too ... they do care," he said.

"They never talked about it, but when it was over, they all seemed excited for me. That's what makes a team close.

"It meant a lot to me, things they said."


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