CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — A rejuvenated Matt Stajan was bumped up to the Calgary Flames' top line between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla because of his solid play all season.
Stajan made first-year Flames coach Bob Hartley's move pay off immediately.
Stajan scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, in the Flames' 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
"So happy for Matt Stajan," Hartley said. "What a great reward for him. He played very well and has probably been one of our most consistent players since the start of the year."
During his first three seasons with Calgary, after he was part of the blockbuster Dion Phaneuf trade with Toronto, Stajan was one of the team's most maligned players. He often took the brunt of fan criticism for his lack of offensive production.
"Sometimes things don't go your way, but a new year comes," Tanguay said. "Bob seems to have a lot of confidence in Matt, and he's been playing great. He's been killing penalties for us, he's been playing against the top unit on the other side on most nights, and he's been great on faceoffs.
"He's been doing all the little things. He's worked extremely hard and he deserves what's happening to him right now. Hopefully he keeps playing like this."
With the game tied in the third period, Jarome Iginla screened Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom as Chris Butler's slap shot from the blue line was deflected on net by Iginla.
Backstrom stopped the initial drive and sprawled to get his pad on Stajan's rebound, but Stajan jammed the puck over the line just inside the post at 7:19.
"It's just a scramble goal, and there are so many goals in this league like that," said Stajan, who leads the Flames with a plus-7. "Unless you're Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin dangling through guys, you're not going to score too many goals end to end."
Looking for a spark, Hartley moved him to the top line with Iginla and Tanguay, who also scored.
Charlie Coyle, with his first NHL goal, scored for the Wild, who split their two-game trip through Alberta.
"We came out pretty good and had a few shots in the first period, but then we died down a little bit and we can't afford to do that," Coyle said. "We have to stick with it for the full game.
"We had some chances, but we have to create more. We're capable of doing that."
Calgary began the night in 14th place in the Western Conference, five points back of the Wild and Phoenix, who are currently in the last two playoff positions.
The Flames will have a chance to move two points closer to Phoenix on Sunday night when they host the Coyotes and wrap up a three-game homestand.
"You just look at the standings, there's only 32 games left so you have to string them together," Stajan said. "There's so many three-point games. This is a huge weekend for us and we're only halfway done. It's nice to get the two points, but we're here for four points this weekend, not just one win."
Continue reading this story on the...