Ah, shoot! Flames legend Iginla made positive impact on Avalanche

DENVER — Just hours before his jersey was raised to the rafters on an emotional night at the Saddledome, Calgary Flames franchise icon Jarome Iginla told the current cast that he would be cheering for them in their bid to bring a championship to his longtime hockey home.

Thing is, Iggy was also a helping hand for the speedy squad that is now threatening to derail the Flames’ Stanley Cup quest in a first-round series that was supposed to be a mismatch.

“We worked on our shot all the time,” recalled Colorado Avalanche speed-demon Nathan MacKinnon of Iginla’s three-season stint in the Mile High City. “Every morning skate, before, we would go out there and pass pucks to each other and shoot pucks. And I think that work ethic kind of stayed with me now.

“I shoot a ton of pucks, and I think that started from Iggy.”

Every one of the Avs seemed to be shooting a ton of pucks in Monday’s 6-2 rout of the Flames, an unexpectedly one-sided shellacking that gave the underdogs from Colorado a 2-1 edge in this best-of-seven set.

In Calgary’s crease, masked man Mike Smith faced 56 pellets. MacKinnon, so far the most dangerous attacker on either side by a country mile, scored on two of his.

The Flames will be aiming to even the series in Wednesday’s Game 4 at Pepsi Center (8 p.m. MT, CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

Now one of the NHL’s bonafide superstars despite his status as the second-most-famous centre from his hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S., the 23-year-old MacKinnon was just an impressionable sophomore when Iginla signed with the Avalanche in 2014.

The sure-thing Hockey Hall-of-Famer was past his prime by then but was still an important role model for a young core — a crew that also includes captain Gabriel Landeskog, winger Mikko Rantanen and offensive-minded defenceman Tyson Barrie.

All told, No. 12 was a teammate to half of the guys in Colorado’s current playoff lineup.

In Calgary, where he racked up a franchise-record 525 goals and 1,095 points from 1996-2013, there are only three holdovers from the Iginla Era — captain Mark Giordano, his on-again off-again defence partner TJ Brodie and shutdown centre Mikael Backlund.

“(Iginla) helped me a lot. I still remember some things he said to me,” said MacKinnon, the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. “There wasn’t like a movie scene where he gave an inspirational speech to me. But coming from Jarome Iginla, when he would say something, it meant a lot to me as a 19- or 20-year-old. So it was really cool.

“He was a great teammate and you could see why he was such a great captain in Calgary for so long.”

Landeskog, who has a pair of assists so far in this series, nodded in agreement when asked if Iginla’s impact is still felt in the home locker room at Pepsi Center.

“Iggy was, first and foremost, a great teammate. Unbelievable,” Landeskog said. “For us that were here with him, he taught us a lot about just being professional and working hard and finding different ways to be successful. That was sort of Iggy in a nutshell — he would try everything and if it wasn’t working, he would try something else. That’s sort of who he was.

“He was the oldest guy on the team, but he was the first one out there for morning skate. He would be out there shooting 200 pucks or whatever. That’s just Iggy.”

The Flames need to try something different after consecutive losses, although that might be as simple as just getting back to what made them the best in the West during the regular season.

Despite trailing 2-1 in the series, they insisted Tuesday that there is no sudden shortage of confidence or belief, reminding that it will be a best-of-three — and they will have home-ice advantage — as long as they take care of business in Game 4.

“It was a bad game, but it was one game,” Giordano stressed.

The Avs, after a dominant showing, were singing that same tune.

“Obviously, almost 60 shots is a good sign,” MacKinnon said after Monday’s whupping. “We’re being very aggressive. Guys are involved, and we’re having shooter mentality and things like that. We feel good.

“But at the same time, we have to move on. It’s one win — I guess two wins now — but we have to regroup and get ready for a huge game on Wednesday.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/WesGilbertson

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Author: Wes Gilbertson