Iggy takes charge

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:48 PM ET


 VANCOUVER -- Brian Sutter said it all the time when he was Calgary's head coach and Jarome Iginla was a pup.

 For Iginla to be effective, he needs to get involved early. Soon after the puck drops he needs to crash, he needs to bang, he needs to get fired up. If not, Sutter figured the young, inconsistent winger was lost for the game.

 For proof, look no further than last night's Game 5 tilt at GM Place, where Iginla was a force as the Flames captain scored the game-winner and added an assist in Calgary's 2-1 victory.

 "It was a fortunate deflection for sure," Iginla told the CBC of the winning marker. "But it went in tonight.

 "This win feels good."

 The team fed off Iginla's play at times last night as it often does. If he can get his adrenaline pumping early, it plays a dual role of rubbing off on his teammates. Even if he's kept off the scoresheet, his edgy play will ensure he contributes in a major way. Not many players have that ability.

 Take Game 4, for example.

 Early in the game, with a powder-keg crowd ready to explode after every Flames hit, shot or goal, Iginla ran Mattias Ohlund into the boards twice in one shift and followed it up with a few choice words.

 Circling around his big Swedish nemesis like a shark after the whistle, Iginla let Ohlund know he was planning on winning the war that night. Heck, every night.

 Before Ohlund could respond, Canucks defenceman Bryan Allen and Ed Jovanovski stood up to jaw at Iginla, serving only to fire up the Flames captain.

 Seconds after play resumed, Iginla violently threw his 208-lb. frame into Brent Sopel, eliciting another roar from the masses.

 The team followed his gritty lead by playing its best game of the post-season and perhaps this season. No wonder he's arguably the most popular Flame in franchise history -- he is the face of the organization in every way. Especially now, when hard work and physical play are the only recipes Calgary can cook up for any playoff success.

 "I think that's why our team plays the way we do," said Shean Donovan.

 "He plays hard and he's in people's faces and that's the way we are. We take the lead from our captain."

 In Game 4, he finished the first period without a shot on goal yet he was the best player on the ice at that point.

 "Jarome is a very emotional guy and he thrives on adversity and challenges and that's when you get the best out of him," said Denis Gauthier, who has watched Iginla mature over the last seven years.

 "He doesn't always get on the scoresheet but he's great in the room, he gives hits, he takes hits, he makes plays and does all the little things a good captain needs to do."

 While Iginla's brilliance and versatility are no secret to anyone, his consistency and ability to contribute in so many ways make him worth every cent of the $7.5 million US he made this year.

 "I try to be involved all the time," said Iginla. "I've had some good coaches and I've been working on a balance my whole career. You can't be too physical because then you take yourself out of the play a lot and you don't want to be too much of a finesse player."

 He's been a solid blend of both in this series, rebounding from Game 1 when Darryl Sutter called his captain out for poor play.

 "He's a big guy and he's meeting the challenge. We expect him to be physical -- he's our leader."

 From the minute the puck drops.


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