San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, from Finland, reacts after letting in the winning goal during overtime NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The Calgary Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CALGARY - Jarome Iginla joined elite company Tuesday night, becoming the seventh player in NHL history to record 11 consecutive 30-goal seasons.
The Calgary Flames captain was able to enjoy the achievement, too, thanks to a critical victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Matt Stajan scored with 40 seconds left in overtime as the Flames beat the Sharks 3-2 in a pivotal Western Conference encounter.
"I've been very fortunate as a shooter to play with some great passers over the years and I'd love to keep it going, but the biggest thing, definitely, is this playoff run and the win tonight," said Iginla, who ranks 36th all-time with 514 career goals.
Six other players have reached the 30-goal mark in 11 straight seasons: Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Marcel Dionne, Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner.
Iginla has been especially hot of late with goals in five straight games and 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in last seven games.
The winning goal came after Stajan blocked Dan Boyle's shot attempt at the Calgary blue-line. The Flames broke away on a two-on-one and executed it perfectly with Blake Comeau sending a pass across to Stajan, who fired his fifth goal of the season into the open side.
"That's got to be one of the biggest goals of my career, and definitely as a Flame," said Stajan, who has five points in his last four games. "Just to get the win was first and foremost is the best feeling but to contribute in a big game like this and score an overtime goal, I don’t think there’s a way to describe that feeling, it’s unbelievable."
Stajan has been playing his best hockey of the season recently, centring Calgary's top line with Iginla and Alex Tanguay while Mike Cammalleri has been hurt.
"You never want to see injuries but quite frankly, that's the reason I'm getting an opportunity and with that, I'm gaining confidence and I'm feeling really good out there and I just want to keep it going," Stajan said.
Sven Baertschi, with his second goal in as many games, scored for the Flames (33-25-12), who have won four straight.
Logan Couture scored his 29th and 30th goals for San Jose (34-25-10). The Sharks' single point moves them into eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Calgary, Colorado and Los Angeles are all even with the San Jose at 78 points, but the Sharks get the tie-breaker.
"One point is better than none but that wasn't what our goal was so we’re disappointed leaving. I thought we played well enough to get two but we’re not going home with them," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
Iginla's goal to put Calgary up 2-1 late in the second period came on an unusual play. Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic fired the puck up the side boards into open ice. However, just as he released the puck, Mark Giordano stepped onto the ice after the expiration of his penalty.
After intercepting the pass, Giordano carried the puck into the Sharks end, pulled up and sent a cross-ice pass to Iginla, who one-timed a slapshot past Antti Niemi.
"Our penalty box guy counts us down and I saw the D-man looking up so I was really excited to try and get out there as quick as possible. Fortunately, I got out there on time and Iggy buried it," said Giordano.
Couture tied the game 1:22 into the third period on the power play.
"We played a pretty good game overall, it's tough to lose the way we did there in overtime because we really didn't give them much, we were good defensively," Couture said. "We're going through a tough stretch so to get some points any way we can is good."
As hot as Iginla has been, Curtis Glencross had been absolutely scorching, entering the night with goals in seven consecutive games.
However, his bid to equal the franchise record of eight, held by Gary Roberts (1993) and Kent Nilsson (1983), ended abruptly when he was given a boarding major and game misconduct against San Jose defenceman Jason Demers with 29 seconds left in the first period.
The Flames kept the Sharks power play at bay and shortly after returning to even strength, Baertschi tied the score 1-1.
Baertschi, the 13th overall selection in last June’s entry draft, has played three games for the Flames since being recalled a week ago from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League on an emergency basis due to the Flames injury woes. Six forwards remain out but as soon as one of them is ready to return, Baertschi will return to junior.
Couture opened the scoring 53 seconds into the game, the first time in 12 games the Flames failed to score the opening goal.
Notes: Gartner and Jagr own the record for most consecutive 30-goal seasons at 15…Comeau (shoulder) returned after missing four games... Of the Flames injured forwards, RW Tim Jackman (shoulder), who practised Monday but didn’t Tuesday, is considered closest to returning…San Jose C Tommy Wingels (upper body) did not play after getting hurt Monday night against the Oilers.…Flames have 328 man games lost to injury compared to 127 for San Jose…Calgary D Jay Bouwmeester played in his 576th consecutive game, tying him with Billy Harris for the 7th longest all-time. Doug Jarvis is No. 1 at 964 games.