How Nazem Kadri’s ‘SportsCentre top-10 goal’ lifted Flames to 5th straight win

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CALGARY — After 40 minutes of play in a Saturday night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Calgary Flames needed to shake their sluggish start.

The festivities from earlier in the night — Miikka Kiprusoff’s jersey retirement ceremony — had long passed and there was no big rah-rah speech for the Flames entering the third period.

So, how did the Flames approach the third?

“It’s go time,” Nazem Kadri said. “It’s what everybody should be saying. Third period is an opportunity, whatever the situation is, crawl back, build on the lead, tie the game. Whatever the situation is, I think you always want to finish strong. And it’s what we’ve been doing this year.”

Kadri has scored memorable goals on Hockey Night in Canada throughout his career. His most recent one may go down as one of his best. The goal came in the third period of the Flames’ 4-3 win over the Penguins, kickstarting a comeback from down 3-1 with less than 10 minutes to go.

Kadri received a pass from MacKenzie Weegar and began his zone breakout, fending off Penguins forward Jonathan Gruden before putting the puck between Noel Acciari’s legs and skating up the wing. Kadri then went one-on-one with Kris Letang and overpowered him. As he drew closer to the net, he narrowly avoided contact with Marcus Pettersson. Somehow, Kadri maintained control of the puck and turned around to bury his chance past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

“Naz’s puck skill is really good,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska said. “But you also need courage to go to the far side of the net. There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get popped at times. He didn’t tonight. But to be able to hold on to the puck and make the play as he’s going across the crease, and having the patience to wait out a goaltender out, it shows a lot of skill about that play.”

The goal lifted the spirits of the fans in attendance at the Saddledome, many of whom might’ve been one more Penguins goal away from leaving the rink early. It drew smiles and looks of awe from GM Craig Conroy and his linemate-turned-special-adviser Jarome Iginla, looking down at the ice from the press gallery. Kadri pumped his fists and immediately embraced Weegar along the boards before the rest of his teammates joined the celebration.

“I just saw some open ice,” Kadri said. “Great job by the D. I think Weegs zipped it up to me. I had some speed. Just figured I’d try to make a play. Thankfully it worked out and got us started.”

Teammate Blake Coleman mentioned that a few players made “big boy plays” to keep the Flames in the game. Kadri was among them.

“It’s a SportsCentre top-10 goal,” Coleman said. “It’s something that electrified the building and the crowd. It was good tonight to begin with, obviously, with the big night for (Kiprusoff). That goal just blew the roof off. And as players, that’s what you want from your home games. It’s to get that juice from the fans. And we come out and score 30 seconds later, and then we put it away.”

It was Coleman himself who scored 32 seconds later to tie it. Nine minutes later, Yegor Sharangovich scored his second of the game to complete the comeback. The Flames have now won five games in a row for the first time since April 2022 and are five points back of the Los Angeles Kings for a playoff spot.

“It’s a good thing and they deserve to feel good about doing it,” Huska said. “The challenge now is making sure that their next game is going to be played in a manner that allows us to get the sixth one. These ones are done now and we have to make sure we’re ready to push for that sixth.”

After a dismal start to the season with one point in his first eight games, Kadri has played a crucial role in his team’s recent success. Since those first eight games, Kadri has scored 22 goals and 51 points over his last 52 games while playing steadily alongside rookies Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil. He’s on pace to produce the second-best season of his career, points-wise, according to Hockey Reference.

When Conroy mentioned to The Athletic earlier this week that his players “set the tone” ahead of uncertain times with the trade deadline, plays like Kadri’s goal help illustrate his point.

Beloved defenceman Chris Tanev was traded to Dallas earlier this week and goaltender Jacob Markstrom voiced his displeasure about the trade talk surrounding him. Meanwhile, Noah Hanifin remains the top player on trade boards and likely will be moved ahead of the deadline.

The Flames’ third-period response defines how the team aims to play the rest of the season even if the schedule won’t get any easier for them soon.

Calgary faces the Seattle Kraken on Monday before running through a quintet of playoff teams in Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, Colorado and Vegas. The games with Seattle and Tampa Bay will precede the deadline.

Efforts like Kadri’s show that the Flames don’t intend to give up.

“We’re not here to pack it in and look to the future,” Coleman said. “We’ve got guys that have won in here. We’ve got guys that want to win in here. There’s never going to be a quit in our team. I think as long as we’ve breath in us, we’re going to have that fight.”

“We have a bunch of guys in here who refuse to go down swinging,” Kadri said. “That’s a great mentality to have.”

(Top photo of Nazem Kadri: Photo by Derek Leung / Getty Images)

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