NEWARK, N.J. – His goal celebration earned him tremendous derision from his teammates.
The accomplishment earned him a place amongst hockey legends.
Mark Giordano’s season for the ages hit a new milestone Wednesday when his all-world game-winner in a 2-1 win gave him 60 points for the season, adding him to an exclusive old boys club.
Only four other players in NHL lore have had 60-point seasons at age 35 or over – Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Al MacInnis and Sergei Zubov.
"All are guys I looked up to. Nik Lidstrom I had the pleasure of playing against him and I think he’s the best ever, so to be mentioned in the same sentence with him is surreal to me," said the 35-year-old Flames captain, leading his team to its seventh-straight win.
"Ray Bourque the same thing. I remember watching him growing up and playing him in video games. He was one of my favourite guys. All those guys are really Hall of Fame guys (except Zubov). I don’t consider myself on their level, but it’s pretty cool to be mentioned with them."
Even cooler to have another legendary defenceman chime in from the press box on how much he believes Giordano belongs in that group.
"It doesn’t surprise me one bit – I’ve thought highly of him for years," said Red Wings director of pro scouting, Mark Howe, a prolific scorer himself who knows a thing about longevity and blue line brilliance
"Especially today, if you’re in good shape and you can still move well there’s no reason he can’t play for a number of years at this level.
"They have a hell of a five-man unit and that has a lot to do with it. You can see they have a lot of chemistry together and they’re not sacrificing anything defensively. I think he used to have to do a lot more on his own, but he’s not having to do that as much anymore."
The win capped an arduous month of travel that included three eastern road swings and 17 days away from home. All told, they finished 8-3-2 in February to increase their lead in the Western Conference to seven points.
They did it with their latest in a string of defensive gems, allowing one goal against for the fourth-straight game.
And while the lads spent plenty of time after the game discussing their defensive improvements and road brilliance (21-11-2), they made sure to include plenty of pot-shots for ol’ Gio’s goal celly.
Up 1-0 midway through the night, Giordano moved in alone on Mackenzie Blackwood from the left side, freezing him with a fake shot before deftly deking towards the middle and depositing the puck into an empty cage on his backhand.
As he jubilantly strode towards the corner, he reached down with his left hand and wiggled his fingers as if tickling the chin of a dog.
"The last (goal) they gave it to me pretty hard so I tried something different and they said this one was worse," grinned Giordano, whose 14th looked a lot like his 13th, upping his league-leading plus/minus to +32.
"I don’t know what I’m going to do next time – hopefully there is a next time – but I’ll just keep it calm."
Pressed to describe what his move was, the man with all the moves seemed to run out of ’em.
"Now you guys are getting on me too?" laughed the Norris Trophy front-runner.
"I was tickling the ice I guess. I don’t know what to say about that. I’m embarrassed to be honest."
Rasmus Andersson called it "awful," David Rittich "thanked god" he didn’t see it, while Noah Hanifin would only rain praise upon a goal he called "sick."
"My celly isn’t that great either so I think we’ve both got to work on that," laughed Elias Lindholm, who opened the scoring on the man advantage with a fluky bank shot off a defender’s skate.
"As long as he scores those goals he can celebrate any way he wants."
A shorthanded goal by Kevin Rooney late in the second set up a tense third in which the Flames defensive prowess of late won the day. Rittich finished with 19 saves.
The game was marred one minute into the third period when Devils forward Mirco Mueller caught an edge and fell head-first into the end boards with Michael Frolik landing on top of him. The youngster lay motionless, face-first for several minutes as the players and crowd of 12,019 looked on in astonishment. He was eventually wheeled off on a stretcher to chants of "Mueller, Mueller" while giving the crowd an encouraging thumbs up. The Devils reported after the game he had full feeling and movement of his extremities.
The Flames return to Calgary for a month of home cooking that includes just five games away from the Dome, highlighted by Saturday’s jersey retirement ceremony for Jarome Iginla.
"That’s a good team – they should be tough to deal with," assessed Howe, who played until he was 40 – 11 years before his father Gordie hung em up.
"The west is especially tough to get out of though. If the goaltending holds up there’s a good chance they should go far in the playoffs."
Now that would be a celly worth seeing.