Flames feast on fatigued Knights as Eichel watches; Tkachuk scores wicked goal
On a day Calgary Flames fans were reminded about what they don’t have, the players reminded them what they do have.
A dominant top line. A sniper who doesn’t play on the first line. A Vezina contender in goal. And a veteran still capable of producing some offence.
Jack Eichel’s skate as a visitor at the Saddledome this morning triggered flashbacks to the broadly reported Flames interest in acquiring the elite centre months ago. Eichel eventually departed the Buffalo Sabres for the bright lights of Vegas.
But the top trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm came through with a big night, connecting for half of the goals in the 6-0 Calgary Flames victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night.
Andrew Mangiapane scored his 21st and 22nd of the year to double up his home-ice goal total, and Mikael Backlund, the longest-serving Flames player, earned his first ever four-point night.
Oh, and the goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, earned his league-leading eighth shutout of the season. He has 38 games left to earn two more to tie Miikka Kiprusoff’s franchise record from 2005-06. Kiprusoff earned the Vezina that season.
“It was a Jacob Markstrom statement game,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said when asked if the massive victory over one of the top teams in the Western Conference was a statement game for his team. “It’s really a 6-5 game.”
Markstrom stellar in chase for Calgary Flames shutout record
Sutter was alluding to the letdown in the second period, during which Markstrom was hands-down the team’s best player. He stopped three tremendous opportunities from Golden Knights forward Nolan Patrick alone. That included a late-period breakaway after a brutal giveaway in the middle of the ice by defenceman Nikita Zadorov.
“I don’t think anyone was spectacular for us except for Marky – that’s for sure,” Sutter continued. “Jacob had to make some big saves.”
Sutter was entertainingly biting when asked about the other performances.
Mangiapane’s pair of goals?
“I’m sure he’s going to tell you it’s about time he scored two goals at home,” Sutter quipped.
Backlund’s career night?
“If he had a career-high four points then he had a good game,” Sutter smirked.
Mangiapane got wind of his linemate’s career mark on the bench during the third period and expressed shock that it was the first time the Flames’ first-round draft pick in 2007 hit that mark. He also produced the line of the night.
“I was kind of shocked. He kind of said that to me on the bench there and I was laughing,” said Mangiapane. “He must have been on the Peloton over the break and kept his endurance up.”
High-end skill from dynamic duo
Aside from the win, there was one thing that made Sutter smile. Tkachuk’s skillful between-the-legs goal that had Vegas goalie Robin Lehner looking for the puck for another 10 seconds AFTER Tkachuk scored from the side of the net with the quick move he’s just about trademarked in the NHL.
He’s got a couple of elite offensive players in Gaudreau and Tkachuk who can be as creative as anyone with the puck on their sticks. When Tkachuk’s goal was mentioned, he reminded reporters of Gaudreau’s insane attempt to flip the puck to himself from behind the net for a scoring chance against the Arizona Coyotes before the all-star break.
“Heck, did you see Johnny in Arizona? He just about had a goal and assist in the same play,” Sutter said. “Those are high-end plays. Not everybody can try it. The guys that try it, they can pull it off.”
Adding Eichel would have been a huge coup. But on night’s like this, it doesn’t feel like too big a miss.