Flames bomb Buffalo with top-heavy attack in 5-0 win
It’s tough to get overly excited about the Calgary Flames crushing an opponent like the Buffalo Sabres.
Frankly, it’s what should happen. The Sabres traded their franchise player when they sent Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knight (and not the Calgary Flames). And while the Sabres have some talented young players, and a few veterans who’ve had some success in the past, the Flames boast more well-established stars capable of pounding on the opposition when the opportunity presents itself.
As much as head coach Darryl Sutter likes to talk about his lack of guys with end-to-end ability, there are enough of them to do some serious damage.
That’s what happened on Thursday night as the Flames obliterated the Sabres 5-0 in Buffalo.
They only needed three snipers to do it, with Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane both scoring twice, and Matthew Tkachuk getting in there, too. That trio combined for eight points on the night. Mangiapane was looking for the hat-trick and his teammates were trying to help him out as he finished with eight shots on the night.
“We all wanted him to get it. He had like a million shot attempts, so he wanted it too,” Tkachuk said after the game. “He played really well tonight.
“He’s still a very humble kid. Just kind of scratching the surface of what he can be and starting to show the hockey world he’s one of the best in the league.”
Gaudreau once again setting the pace for Flames offence
Gaudreau started things off with his fifth of the year on a long bomb connection from Tkachuk. Tkachuk was deep in his own wall when he found Gaudreau on the fly up the centre of the ice. He was draped by defenceman Colin Miller but it didn’t matter. Gaudreau roofed it.
Mangiapane piled up two more road goals and by the time of the final buzzer led the league with 11 in 11 games away from the Saddledome. The only member of the Calgary Flames who took fewer than 11 games to score that many just entered the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jarome Iginla did it in 10.
His first came in the second period on a nice pass from Chris Tanev. He went forehand to backhand and lifted a quick shot in off the glove of Dustin Tokarski. Mangiapane’s second made it 4-0 with five minutes left in the frame on a tic-tac-toe give and go with Mikael Backlund – his new linemate for the night.
Sandwiched between the Bread Man’s goals, Gaudreau found Tkachuk with a perfect pass across the ice and Tkachuk made it count with a quick and accurate wrister past Tokarski. It came just after a powerplay expired.
Gaudreau got one on the man-advantage to round out the scoring less than a minute after Mangiapane’s second – chipping Sean Monahan’s pass into the empty cage with no one covering him.
“Johnny lit it up tonight,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “Lots of speed. He’s got that jump in his game again.”
A lot to like about the Flames on the night
There was a lot to like for Calgary Flames fans.
Tanev finished with a pair of assists.
His blueline partner, Oliver Kylington, extended his current point streak to five games with a helper. It’s his second run of at least five consecutive contests with a point this season (he had six in a row from Oct. 26-Nov. 6). He is the third player to record multiple point streaks of five-plus games this season, joining Anaheim’s Kevin Shattenkirk and Florida’s Aleksander Barkov.
And with 27 saves, goalie Jacob Markstrom had his fifth shutout on the season … in just his 13th game.
He’s the 10th goaltender in league history to hit that mark in 13 or fewer games and the fourth to do it since 1944, according to NHL Stats.
The others: Pascal Leclaire in nine games in 2007-08 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Bernie Parent in 12 games in 1973-74, and former Calgary Flames backstop Brian Boucher when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes in 13 games in 2003-04.
Sutter doesn’t focus much on the shutouts but praised Markstrom’s leadership after the game.
“He’s one of our leaders and one of our core guys, which is really important,” he said. “It’s not always easy to do from that position. They’re on their island a little bit. He brings a lot to your locker-room.”
The team wraps up its road trip (2-1-2) with back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday in New York and Boston.
If they can manage anywhere near the same offensive success from the top two lines, they could finish with a bang.
“I think a game like that gives us some confidence. We know we’re going into a really tough environment,” said Tkachuk. “(The Islanders) are notorious for being one of the best and stingiest home teams in the league. We’ve got a big test. It’s good for us to see the scoresheet now and hopefully that carries over.”