Calgary Flames Rhett Warrener, left, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff celebrate Warrener\'s winning goal. (CP PHOTO/Jeff McIntosh)
Warrener's unlikely goal, his fourth of the season, at 1:27 earned the Flames a critical 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. "I was surprised to even be out there," said the rugged defenceman, who has counted just 23 goals in his 11 NHL seasons. "When you get a chance to do something like that and it goes in, you feel pretty fortunate. I don't think you expect it from guys like myself."
Stephane Yelle started the sequence winning the faceoff and knocking the puck to Alex Tanguay along the boards. Tanguay then fired a pass in front that Warrener deflected through the pads of Nashville goaltender Chris Mason, sending the sell-out crowd of 19,289 into a frenzy.
"Literally, I was leaving the front of the net and I saw Alex had it and I just threw a stick out there and he pretty much put off it and in," Warrener said. "It wasn't much of my doing."
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla admitted even his eyebrows shot up when he realized it was Warrener out there.
"He's usually not sitting in the crease anytime, especially not 4-on-4," admitted the Flames captain with a smile. "But we had the right guy along the wall to get the puck to him."
Craig Conroy and Tanguay also scored for Calgary (39-25-10). Jason Arnott and Vernon Fiddler notched the goals for Nashville (47-21-7).
Combined with their 2-1 win Detroit on Tuesday night, the Flames have picked up a pivotal four points this week as they try to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Flames are up six points up on the red-hot Colorado Avalanche.
"Two wins like this would be big no matter who we're playing," Iginla said, "but playing two of the top teams in the whole league, this is something to definitely build off of, to get us some momentum, get us feeling good about ourselves, and get us going on a streak again."
Calgary had lost eight straight against Nashville since last beating the Predators on Jan. 22, 2004. With the single point, the Predators move into a tie for first place overall with Buffalo and they maintain their one point lead over Detroit atop the Central Division.
Trailing 2-1, Conroy put the Flames back to even at 16:13 of the third period. Iginla's shot attempt deflected off the stick of Nashville defenceman Greg Zanon and bounced across the slot right to where Conroy was breaking in and he snapped the puck past Mason.
"They were struggling for a while and Colorado is not too far behind them and they needed the point and you could tell, they played desperate and they really wanted to win," said Nashville centre Peter Forsberg, who had two assists.
Losers of four of its last five, including the first two stops in a three-game trek through Western Canada, the Predators play in Edmonton on Saturday before returning home for a five-game homestand.
"Once we get all our people healthy, we'll be a lot different team," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, shrugging off the loss. "We've got a lot of pieces we can still add so we'll be a different team."
Among those missing from Nashville's line-up due to injury were Steve Sullivan (back), Scott Hartnell (foot), and Martin Erat (knee).
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Nashville regained the lead 43 seconds into the third period when Fiddler broke to the net and neatly neatly steered Forsberg's perfectly placed pass behind Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
After giving up an uncharacteristic 20 goals in his previous five starts, Kiprusoff has been sharp this week with 30 saves Tuesday night and 24 stops against Nashville.
"It was a good hockey game," said Forsberg. "It was physical, good chances back and forth, good goaltending, it was like a playoff game today for sure."
Arnott and Tanguay exchanged power-play goals less than two minutes apart in the first period.
Notes: - Tanguay extended his points streak to five games (three goals, four assists)... With RW Jordin Tootoo sitting out the second game of a five-game suspension, Nashville coach Barry Trotz opted to dress seven defencemen for the second night in a row... Nashville D Shea Weber played in his 100th NHL game... The Predators played the final game of 19 sets of back-to-back games for the season. They are 13-3-3 in that second game... With eight games left, Calgary has scored 236 goals, which is the most offence they've had in a season since scoring 241 in 1995-96.