SUN Hockey Pool

Flames top line looks promising

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Amped up after scoring his first goal of the season, the usually reserved Alex Tanguay lost control for a moment.

A double fist-pump, a few more one-armed moves and scream of joy that echoed in the rafters followed his breakaway dish between Nikolai Khabibulin's pads in the first period of an impressive 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night.

Tanguay's reaction represented how meaningful it was for the Flames to have a breakout game offensively.

"I don't celebrate very often like that. I don't know what I did," Tanguay said while smiling ear to ear after the game. "I told (Matt) Stajan, I said, 'Excuse me, I've never done anything like that.' I was so excited.

"I think it was a really big relief not only for myself but for the team."

It had been a tough start to the season for the Flames, especially the top line of Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla, who had been shut out for three games heading into the Battle of Alberta rematch.

Jokinen was replaced by Stajan Saturday, and the new trio responded with eight points between them.

Equally as liberating was Iginla's winning goal on a third-period powerplay -- set up by a one-touch tap pass across the crease from none other than Tanguay.

"That one felt pretty good," said Iginla, an obvious weight lifted off his shoulders after netting his first of the season and second in the last 20 regular-season games dating back to last year. "I couldn't believe (the pass). It was coming right across the crease. My eyes were pretty big.

"Pretty excited to see that go in. It's been a tough start as a team and definitely personally."

For a team that finished second-last in the league in offensive output a year ago, the Flames are depending on the top line to lead the way this season.

It didn't look promising until Saturday's display.

But what a show they put on.

A long offering from Stajan sprung Tanguay on a breakaway, and that started as a result of a strong backcheck by Iginla.

The tic-tac-toe play for the winner was kicked off with a behind the back drop pass to Mark Giordano, who shipped the puck over to Tanguay, who tapped it over to where Iginla was charging for the easy goal.

"I think anyone would have put that in with a pass like that from Tangs," Iginla beamed.

Stajan contributed three assists in his first crack at the top line since coming back from a nasty shoulder separation and seemed to quickly find the kind of chemistry Jokinen never could alongside Iginla.

Maybe that experiment has finally come to an end.

Taking shifts on no less than three lines, Stajan showed he can provide spark to any combination, assisting on Brendan Morrison's first as a Flame just after the former Canuck finished serving a boarding penalty.

"Our top two lines produced for us," said head coach Brent Sutter. "And we need that."

Not just for one night, either. It's got to be a regular occurrence for the Flames, who relied too heavily on goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and contributions from the third and fourth lines last year.

It cost them a playoff berth.

"We feel we have the ability to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis on this team," Tanguay said. "And we're still missing three or four guys that are gonna be key contributors offensively on this team.

"We feel good."

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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