Krys Kolanos wasted no time reminding Abbotsford Heat fans what a special scorer he is.
The 30-year-old sniper, recently returned to Abbotsford after a 10-game stint with the Calgary Flames, scored on his very first shift on Friday evening, ripping a high wrist shot over the glove of Texas Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft at 2:33 of the first period.
That got the Heat started en route to a 2-1 win before 3,609 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
“I haven’t skated in a week, so it was good just to get back into it,” said Kolanos, who sustained a lower-body injury at the tail end of his tour of duty with the Flames. “It was a big help from my teammates, as always, and another important win for us here on the stretch drive.”
All the scoring on Friday came on the power play, and all three goals were in the first 7:32 of the game.
After Kolanos opened the scoring, Ben Walter made it 2-0 just over two minutes later on another Heat man advantage. Ryan Howse, swooping in on the right wing, made a slick backhand pass to Walter in front, and he coaxed a shot between Raycroft’s legs.
Shortly thereafter, with Heat blueliner Clay Wilson banished to the sin bin for tripping, Angelo Esposito beat Heat goalie Danny Taylor with a sharp-angle wrist shot to cut the lead in half.
But that was as close as the Stars would get. The hosts were solid defensively, and Taylor made 22 saves to post his second straight victory.
The Heat limited the Stars to five shots in the third period, but Taylor was called upon to make some big stops in the waning minutes. He stymied Colton Sceviour on two occasions – first on the rush, and later on a point-blank snap shot from the bottom of the left circle.
“I think this has got to be one of the best games we’ve played as a team all year coming off a long road trip,” Taylor said. “We were excellent from start to finish tonight.”
“It’s the kind of game you need to learn to win, especially coming around to playoff time – just playing with a lead and being sound defensively,” Walter concurred.
With the win, the Heat (31-21-2-3, 67 points) leapfrogged the Chicago Wolves, the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate, for fourth place in the Western Conference. The Stars (24-28-2-2) are last in the West.
Abbotsford has now registered power-play goals in three consecutive games. But Kolanos was quick to assert that they shouldn’t rest on their laurels – the Heat came up empty on a man-advantage opportunity in the latter half of the third period that could have salted the game away.
“Getting two goals from two different units was very important for our team,” he noted. “But I felt we could have put the nail in the coffin late in the game, and we didn’t. So we still have some work to do, and I don’t think we can be complacent with how the game started for us on the power play.”
Kolanos led the Heat with 40 points in 34 games prior to his recall to Calgary, and while he posted just one assist in 10 games with the Flames, he said his NHL stint was “a real positive experience.”
“It was a very successful month in my mind,” he said. “I gained a lot of momentum and more experience, and I was able to learn and take away a few things I need to tweak in my game to maintain a regular stay at that level.”
• The Heat and Stars renew hostilities on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., AESC).
Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft makes a glove save on Heat captain Quintin Laing. (Rod Wiens / motioninsports.com)