CALGARY, AB - From the moment Jarome Iginla arrived in Calgary, the spotlight was on.
From the throngs of cameras and media that awaited his arrival by team bus, to the fans shouting "Iggy! Iggy!" and cheering every time he touched the puck on Tuesday night at his former stomping grounds, the Scotiabank Saddledome.
There was a game to be played, too, though all of the attention was around "Iggy," the former longtime beloved Flames captain.
And when the final horn sounded, the Bruins had rallied to cap off his return with a 2-1 comeback win over the "C of Red."
But it didn't look that way early. It took until 13:49 of the third period for the Bruins get on the board, and when they did, it was two tallies 1:38 apart from David Krejci and Reilly Smith that did the job.
"We just got back to playing Bruins hockey," said Smith, of them turning the corner in the third. "The first two periods, we got away from it. I think we were making too many hope plays, we weren’t trying hard enough to turn the puck over and stick to our game plan. We got back to it in the third and I think that changed our game around."
The Bruins were outshot 22-9 through the first 40 minutes, only putting four shots on goal in the second, when the Flames took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Jiri Hudler after a turnover at the blueline.
They were generating chances, and decent offensive zone time in spurts, but could never gain momentum through the first two periods.
"Those first two periods were really tough to watch and just couldn’t get anything going," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame.
"We lost that momentum and the second period was another one where we just refused to put pucks in deep and kept turning them over and we know what happens when a team does that."
"But then our true colors came out in the third and I thought the third period was a real good period."
While the consistency wasn't there for the Bruins, the sluggishness early could have been from a team recently hit by the flu bug.
"You don’t have the energy and you’re asking them to dump it in and forecheck and everything else. There’s that challenge but at the same time, I think there was no excuse, for us to play a better 40 minutes I guess than we did," said Julien.
Julien's team certainly acknowledged the lackluster, flat performance in the first two periods.
But as we look in on a team, with a depleted roster like the Bruins, and four callups from Providence in the lineup, the "finding ways to win" mentality proves true.
Spooner factored largely into the game-winner, feeding Smith a simple up-ice pass, before the winger powered down the right side and cut to the net, slipping the puck under the arm of Flames goalie Reto Berra.
"I think in the third period we showed a lot of character," said Spooner.
And Boston has now picked up three straight character wins.
"They came at us hard, they did a great job and they were on top of us," said Julien. "We just played with a lot more desperation in the third period. And again, we’re an experienced team and that is kind of where the scale tipped in our favor."
The scale began to tip early in the third, when the Bruins started firing up the shot-counter.
Krejci started off the comeback, tipping in a Torey Krug drive from the middle on the power play, with former Bruin Joe Colborne in the box for delay of game.
Smith made his move soon after, and his goal celebration said it all. He hadn't celebrated like that since college, he said, as he had let out a yell, and then scooped his glove on the ice down on one knee before being joined by his teammates near the glass in a huddle.
The goal gave "Iggy" the win.
"It was great to get the win for him because it wasn’t looking so good halfway through the third period when we were still down 1-0," said Smith. "It’s just great to get the victory for him and have a good homecoming."
With the clock winding down, and the Bruins holding the 2-1 lead, the crowd - who had been cheering for both the Flames, and Iginla, all game - began serenading him to get the empty-netter.
He nearly did put it into the empty net. He almost tied it up, too, just before Krejci did, with his shot jutted right off the post and out.
"It was close eh?" Iginla laughed after the game.
"As a team, all the way around, in the third period we came out with momentum. Guys, each line, we got a lot better and it was kind of fun, we were just pushing for that tying goal and we were able to get it there on the power play and then to see Smitty go on a nice move," he added.
"Third period comebacks are always fun and especially in an already memorable game for myself; it was a nice ending."
After a postgame celebration that included some stronger than usual taps on Iginla's helmet from the Bruins, the former Flame was announced at the No. 3 Star in-arena.
As he hopped on the ice to give a wave to the crowd, Captain Zdeno Chara and the rest of Iginla's teammates coxed the humble veteran back onto the ice for a victory lap.
He obliged, flashing a smile of pure joy (Iginla smiles a lot - this was the biggest I've seen) as he gave a wave to the crowd and made his lap.
One wasn't enough; Zee sent him back out there to continue the moment, with the fans' roar raining down, and the bright spotlight following him - just him - around the ice.
"Honestly, coming back, you remember and part of you just is like, you’re looking forward to it, but then you just want to get through it," Iginla reflected, on his emotions coming into the game.
But that mindset didn't prove true for him. He took in every second, with his parents, family and friends, both in the stands, across the hockey world, and in the Black & Gold.
"I didn’t have a lot of feelings of just trying to get through it; I really enjoyed it all."
His homecoming ended just as it began, and just as it should, with the spotlight on.
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