They came to salute their hero of the past.
The ceremony was a highlight of the season for the Calgary Flames and their faithful with Jarome Iginla back in the Saddledome for the first time since his departure last March.
The end result, though, was another disappointing blown third-period lead and 2-1 defeat Tuesday night for the all-they-can-do-is-try Flames at the hands of Iginla and the Boston Bruins.
The Flames and their fans did a great job honouring Iginla, the long-time face of the franchise before puck drop.
The stirring pre-game video tribute and two-minute standing ovation that followed, which he soaked up and took the time to give his thanks back to the crowd, was a perfect reunion for the franchise and its now-departed all-time record holder in most every category and man who embodied so much about what it means to be a professional.
The game itself was no gem in terms of entertainment, but for so long it appeared it would be a Flames victory, having taken a 1-0 lead into the third period.
But that edge disappeared late in the final frame when David Krejci cued a comeback.
Seconds after an Iginla one-timer hit the stick of Flames defenceman TJ Brodie en route to the target rang off the post, Torey Krug fired a point shot that Krejci deflected through the legs of Flames netminder Reto Berra.
A mere 98 seconds later, Reilly Smith netted the game winner to give Iginla a winning return.
Smith, who went to the Bruins in the off-season trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, drove down the wing, held off the check from Brodie and lifted a shot over Berra’s shoulder.
The Flames fall to 11-15-4, while the Bruins, last year’s Stanley Cup runners-up, improved to 21-8-2.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house before puck drop in anticipation of Iginla’s return. The former captain, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and then signed with the Bruins in the summer, was regularly serenaded with chants of Iggy! Iggy! Iggy! even during the warmup.
To their credit, the Flames used the emotion in the building to their advantage.
After a scoreless first period, Jiri Hudler opened the scoring just over five minutes into the second period.
Sven Baertschi took the hit to make a short pass to spring Hudler on the rush. The club’s leading point producer skated wide to change the angle of his shot on the one-on-one play and sent a wrister that went under the trapper of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
The end result ruined another very solid performance by Flames netminder Reto Berra, who wasn’t busy until the third period in a 22-save outing.
He but did come up with a couple of clutch saves, the first against Iginla in the early going and another against David Krejci late in the opening frame, and held strong for much of the third period, but the onslaught was simply too much.
As for Iginla, his night consisted of four shots on goal, a couple of hits and a few legit scoring chances.
He also was able to partake in a scrum in front of the Bruins net in which he grabbed good buddy Michael Cammalleri and pulled him out of the mix.
In the end, Iginla can close the book on being a Calgary Flame and has that return out of the way.
He left the rink smiling.
The Flames play host to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night before embarking on a five-game Eastern Conference road swing.