Nineties Night at the Saddledome featured the return of Jarome Iginla, the wave and original Playstation graphics around the rink.
It also included the type of hit the game has spent the last couple of decades working hard to phase out: the dangerous kind.
With four minutes left in the second period of a tight, 2-2 game, Milan Lucic chased the puck into Winnipeg’s corner where he caught Dylan DeMelo with an awkward check that sent the prone defender’s upper body into the boards violently.
After a video review by the officials determined it was dangerous enough to be a major, ending Lucic’s evening early — a call Darryl Sutter disagreed with.
“The reason they called a major is because they said (DeMelo) was hurt,” said Sutter, following the Flames’ 4-2 loss. “He really wasn’t hurt. I think that DeMelo tried to turn back and Looch made contact. To me it’s a minor penalty.”
DeMelo did appear to turn into the check at the last minute, but the velocity at which the hard-hitting Lucic was travelling sent the Jets defender hurtling into the boards in perilous fashion.
The right call was made.
It didn’t appear malicious, but it certainly could have resulted in significant injury, which is why it’s expected the league will take a closer look at it on Sunday.
DeMelo, who was slow to his feet, left the game but returned in the third period.
The Flames killed off the majority of the infraction before a Jets penalty ended the visitors’ power play.
Keeping with the evening’s ’90s theme, the game ended in heartbreak for the hosts, as it did so often during a good chunk of that decade.
Despite opening with a two-goal lead seven minutes in, the hosts were victimized by Kyle Connor’s second of the game with five minutes left, snapping the 2-2 tie.
An empty netter by Andrew Copp ended Winnipeg’s five-game losing streak in a game the Flames seemed in control of early, until Connor Hellebuyck decided to steal the win.
The man who stole the show was Iginla, who made a surprise appearance with 13 minutes remaining, after the team had shown a video tribute celebrating his recent Hockey Hall of Fame induction.
The crowd jumped to its feet with a roar as he was then shown in a lower-level luxury suite, waving back at fans with his familiar grin on his face.
The age-old “Ig-gy, Ig-gy” chants returned.
A moment to remember for all those in attendance.
“It was awesome — really cool,” said Matthew Tkachuk. “I haven’t heard the building like that for a while, so maybe we need him to come to the games more.”
The season-high crowd of 17,036 certainly increased its decibel level for the final 10 minutes, as the Flames took turns being stoned by the former Vezina winner.
Andrew Mangiapane, Noah Hanifin and Sean Monahan were all victimized during a power play midway through the third, before Connor’s dagger prevented the Flames from extending a four-game winning streak.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to get this game into overtime or try to get two before that,” said Tkachuk, who opened the scoring a mere 26 seconds in, on the Flames’ fourth shot of the game. “You can’t lose that one in regulation. Those ones hurt. Those are the games that don’t sit too well with you.”
Outshooting the Jets 36-28, the Flames just couldn’t find a way to put the struggling visitors away.
“I thought we played a really good game,” said Sutter, heaping praise on Hellebuyck as one of the league’s top three netminders.
“We didn’t finish enough opportunities. Break it down and I’d say we outchanced them by quite a bit. We made a couple mistakes and they ended up in our net. We had lots of opportunities to break the tie, or go up by two, and we just didn’t finish. And that’s an issue.”
The Flames, who had a seven-game point streak snapped, host Pittsburgh Monday.