In the history of every franchise, there are moments that stand the test of time. In the history of the Calgary Flames, there are a few that are indelible. For the most recent epoch of the club, there is Jarome Iginla and The Shift in Game 5 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That 96 seconds of prime Iginla occurred 16 years ago today.
The setting was the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Florida. Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final with the series tied at two games apiece. The game itself was also deadlocked at 2-2 off Calgary goals from Iginla and Martin Gelinas and Tampa Bay goals from former Flame Martin St. Louis and future Flame Freddie Modin.
Near the end of the first overtime period, hockey fans experienced 96 seconds of perhaps the best hockey Iginla has ever played.
The shift began at 13:06 of the period off a neutral zone face-off lost by Craig Conroy. The play drifted into the Flames zone, but was finally transitioned into the offensive zone after Robyn Regehr found Iginla for an outlet pass at 13:47. Marcus Nilson and Dave Lowry had replaced Conroy and Chris Simon as Iginla’s wingers on a change by this point.
Regehr’s point shot went wide and Iginla lost his helmet battling for the loose puck behind the net with Tampa’s Nolan Pratt. Eventually Vincent Lecavalier carried the loose puck out of the zone, but Regehr swatted down his weak dump-in attempt and a back-checking Iginla – who had been on the ice for over a minute at this point – grabbed the loose puck in the neutral zone and found Nilson for a carry-in to enter the Tampa zone again. Oleg Saprykin replaced Dave Lowry on a change, while Andrew Ference and Rhett Warrener replaced Regehr and Commodore.
Ference’s point shot went wide of the net. Saprykin battled for the loose puck behind the net. He passed to Nilson on the side boards and headed to the front of the net. Nilson passed to Iginla on the other side of the zone. Iginla slid towards the slot, using Saprykin and a couple Lightning players to screen Nikolai Khabibulin. Iginla’s initial shot was stopped by Khabibulin, but Saprykin jammed the rebound between his legs.
The Flames won 3-2 and were on their way home with a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Iginla played 30:54 in the game, more than any other player on either team. The 96 seconds of The Shift showcased precisely what made him special: he battled for pucks, he made smart plays with the puck whenever he had it, and he had the presence of mind despite his obvious exhaustion to hold onto the puck to create a screen for the game-winning goal rather than just blindly chuck the puck towards the Tampa net.
(He showed similar presence of mind in the 2010 Winter Olympics setting up Sidney Crosby for the gold medal-winning goal.)
Iginla was very good at hockey.