You just knew Sam Bennett would score against the Calgary Flames. The team that traded him away. But few expected that it would be the NHL’s top team’s only one of the night.
The Flames answered the honest assessment of their ailments from head coach Darryl Sutter over the last week with their play on the ice in a massive 5-1 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers.
“I thought we just controlled most of the game, won each period,” Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk said post-game. He gave credit to the special teams play as the biggest difference between the Tuesday night victory and their previous battle – a 6-2 loss in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
Bennett wasn’t part of that previous game because he was serving a suspension, so his first ‘grudge match’ came at the Saddledome, where he spent seven NHL seasons before being traded to the Panthers late last year.
“It was exciting (walking in) and it was definitely different going to the away dressing room for the first time. but it’s a cool feeling,” Bennett said prior to the contest. “I have a lot of great memories in this building; was here for a long time.”
No fond memories for Bennett in first game back vs. Flames
Aside from his 16th goal of the season, which cut the Panthers deficit in half at 2-1 in the second period, there wasn’t much for Bennett to remember fondly.
Rasmus Andersson netted his first goal of the season on the powerplay in the first five minutes of the game and Blake Coleman added to the lead just after the midway mark of the frame.
After Bennett’s goal, Sean Monahan scored his fifth of the year on the man advantage to cushion the lead at a critical time with less than four minutes to play in the second period.
Monahan was considered externally to be one of the biggest reasons the Flames ultimately moved Bennett last year. Protecting him for the expansion draft could have left Bennett exposed and they would lose an asset with value for nothing. The fact Bennett has been lighting it up offensively in Florida while Monahan has struggled to produce after hip surgery hasn’t helped the optics.
But Monahan played a big role in the victory on Tuesday, adding a second goal to finish the scoring.
“I think he does a lot of little things that most people don’t notice,” Tkachuk said of the former 30-goal scorer. “I think he’s been really solid for us on the powerplay. He’s great with draws, great recovering pucks. He’s a big-time threat there, which opens up stuff for the rest of us. I think he’s just got a great knack for the net.
“We’re encouraged by that but it’s a lot of little things that nobody notices but we notice in here that impresses us as well.”
Monahan finishing touch fitting after igniting chances
Sutter agreed, pointing out that the fact Monahan ended up scoring those goals on Tuesday really just brought more attention to the things he’s been doing well at times he’s not the one finishing.
Monahan won the faceoff right before the goal he tipped in. On his second, he made a solid check to start things off going the other way.
“He made two really good plays,” Sutter said. “He wins the faceoff and he kills a play to get the puck back – which is something that we’ve talked a lot about lately.”
With the win over an NHL heavyweight snapping a four-game skid, the Calgary Flames talk will likely be a little more positive ahead of their Battle of Alberta showdown against the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday.