SUN Hockey Pool

Flames win 3-1 over Minnesota Wild

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 AM ET

The build up for retro night included a potential fight between Calgary Flames forward Akim Aliu and Minnesota Wild scrapper Zenon Konopka that brought you back to the 1970s.

(Even though it never came to pass.)

The game, sadly, wasn’t from the high-scoring ’80s.

Nope, we were treated to a plodding, whistle-heavy clash circa 2001 for the Hockey Night in Canada affair.

The Flames won’t complain, however, after eking out a much-needed 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild Saturday night before the announced Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289.

For so long, it looked like we were destined for yet another low-scoring overtime or shootout game between the Flames and Wild, and the deserving three stars would be Duran Duran, Men Without Hats and Gun N’ Roses, whose hits were among those from a couple of generations ago played all night.

But Matt Stajan broke a 1-1 deadlock with just under 13 minutes remaining in regulation, his second of the season, during a scramble to put the hosts ahead.

Chris Butler’s point shot was blocked by the crush of players in front of the net and rattled around before Stajan shoved the rebound under the outstretched foot of Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom.

Calgary (6-7-3) snapped a two-game losing skid and finally won their third game on home ice, in the 10th outing.

Alex Tanguay opened the scoring 100 seconds into the game, taking advantage of a breakaway set up by a missed two-on-one at the Flames zone.

Dany Heatley’s saucer pass to Mikko Koivu blew Minnesota’s scoring opportunity and the result was a long pass from Jay Bouwmeester — who was caught up ice on the odd-man rush against — which sent away the Flames forward.

Tanguay easily deked Backstrom for his fifth goal of the season.

Wild rookie Charlie Coyle drew the visitors even before the midway point of the opening frame with a pretty passing play from Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Coyle drove to the net and redirected the long feed for his first NHL tally.

After Stajan’s winning goal, it became the MacDonald show in goal, something the Flames desperately need while star netminder Miikka Kiprusoff remains on the shelf due to a knee injury.

MacDonald, who was extremely busy after his team took its first lead and once again in the final frame, stopped 30 shots for the victory.

Stajan iced it with an empty netter in the final seconds.

As for Aliu, who was called up from the minors the day before, the suggestion he would add some muscle — which is strange since we’re talking about a guy who has seven fights in four pro seasons — was limited to his presence being felt with a hard hit on Wild defenceman Clayton Stoner on the forecheck.

Aliu did collect a 10-minute misconduct when he and Mike Rupp were jawing at each other in a heated scrum.

The Flames also received a boost to the lineup with rookie Sven Baertschi, who missed 11 games due to a hip flexor injury suffered late last month.

Baertschi generated some scoring chances on a line with Jiri Hudler.

Backstrom made 24 saves for the Wild, who fall to 8-7-2.

Calgary’s homestand continues Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

randy.sportak@sunmedi.ca

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