TALKING POINTS: Flames’ imperfect win sets them up for new year
It wasn’t perfect, but the Calgary Flames victory over the Kraken in their first visit to Seattle was perfectly fine.
Considering they hadn’t played in more than two weeks, the Flames showed many of the qualities that made them one of the Western Conference’s best teams over the first third of the season.
They showed finish.
Johnny Gaudreau scored twice and assisted on linemate Matthew Tkachuk’s game-winning goal late in the third period. His 59th multi-point road game moved him past Kent Nilsson into sole possession of fifth on the franchise’s all-time list.
Speaking of excellence on the road, Andrew Mangiapane scored his 18th of the year. An incredible 17 of them have come away from the Saddledome this season, and that feat has him behind only John LeClair and Mario Lemieux in terms of sniping volume through the first 18 road games of any NHL season.
Milan Lucic continues to score at a 20-plus-goal pace, and Noah Hanifin netted his third of the year, second in his last three games.
They showed battle level and intensity.
The chippy play and competitiveness was just as important as the scoring. It kept energy levels up in spite of the lengthy layoff.
They showed resilience.
Arguably the most positive piece of the return to game action, they responded when things seemed to turn against them.
“I thought we were really resilient,” head coach Darryl Sutter said after the win.
“I think there’s guys that really led the charge. Johnny and Looch were really, really good for us. They probably carried our team a lot. I think there’s guys that did show rust.
“Some guys looked like they were playing exhibition games but there were some other guys that covered up for them.”
As a group, they navigated some in-game adversity, from the first goal being scored against them by former Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, to falling behind less than 10 seconds into the second period.
And after tying, then losing the lead in a span of 30 seconds late in the game, they responded with Tkachuk’s winner just 15 seconds later.
Hanifin’s empty netter secured their first victory in nearly a month – their 4-3 shootout win in Anaheim on Dec. 3.
“It’s a big win to set us up for the month of January,” said Gaudreau.
It wasn’t perfect.
But it was a win. The first one in a long time.
“We found a way to win and that’s what was most important,” said Tkachuk. “It was ugly, especially late. That’s not the type of team we are, giving up four, but found a way (to win). That’s all that matters right now.”