TORONTO - There was the relief of finally finding the net again in a rink in which he established himself as an NHL player, through good and bad.
There was the excitement of scoring against his former team and in front of 25 family and friends. And Matt Stajan’s reaction after scoring Calgary’s lone regulation-time goal Saturday said it all.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Stajan, the Mississauga native who was dealt to Calgary almost a year ago in the trade that brought Dion Phaneuf to Toronto. “To say it was just another goal, another win, I’d be lying.
“That was a special one for sure. It’s nice to do it in front of my family and in my home town.”
Not that he was a scoring machine in his six seasons as a Leaf, but most of his time in Calgary has been marked with prolonged droughts, the latest a 12-gamer that ended at 13:07 of the third period when he jammed a rebound past Toronto goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Stajan, who scored for just the third time this season as the Flames scored a 2-1 shootout win. “You’re squeezing your stick tighter when you’re going the way I’ve been going. You just want to see something good happen.”
Though they couldn’t make the goal stand up as the game-winner, Stajan’s teammates were glad they could at least get the victory.
“He’s been working hard,” said centre Olli Jokinen, who scored the shootout winner for the Flames. “It’s great to see him score and get rewarded, and (Nik Hagman) getting an assist. It’s a big game always for those guys playing their old teams.
“Too bad we weren’t able to hold the lead. It would have been nice for him to get the game-winner and us to win 1-0.”