Flames defence provides the offence in big win over Leafs
If Wednesday night’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights was a statement game that measured on the Richter scale, the Calgary Flames follow-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a hell of an aftershock.
Powered by their defence – the players, not the concept – the Flames scored four unanswered goals in the second period to take control of the game, eventually finishing with a 5-2 victory.
It wasn’t pretty. But the outcome is all that matters.
Less than 24 hours after a massive win over a Pacific Division rival head coach Darryl Sutter called the team to beat in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames silenced one of the deadliest offensive teams in the east.
And while the battle gave the two teams’ top lines top billing, it was the Flames blueliners who led the charge against the Blue and White.
They were physical (see Nikita Zadorov’s devastating check on Ondrej Kase), resilient (keeping the Leafs offence quiet is no small feat), and potent.
In addition to Andrew Mangiapane’s third goal in two nights, the Flames got goals from rearguards Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson – the first time all season three scores came from the back end.
Defence back on track for metrics after big night
Sutter said afterward the team wanted more from the back end, starting with a shooting mentality.
“Over the course of the year, your defencemen have to score – to be successful in this league –approximately 35 goals as a group. We were under that,” Sutter said. “After tonight, we might be closer.”
Some quick math shows the blueliners contributing 20 goals so far, including the night’s haul.
Speaking of the back end, backstop Jacob Markstrom was stellar … again.
He got the start for the second straight evening and earned the game’s first star for his 46-save effort. If not for the goaltender’s play in the first period, the Flames may never had had a chance to turn things around. And when the Leafs poured it on in a desperate third period, he stayed stoic and stymied the stars.
The assist from the post on an incredible Auston Matthews chip out of mid-air helped, too.
Three-minute span gives control to Calgary Flames
It was a three-minute span in the second period that saw the Calgary Flames mount enough offence from the defence to secure the win.
Hanifin (5) scored on a great play off the draw with Matthew Tkachuk dishing the puck to Andersson, who found his defence partner pinching in to finish and give the Flames a 2-1 lead they never looked back from.
Kylington (6) one-timed a pass from Hanifin off a Leafs defender and in on the powerplay 32 seconds later. Elias Lindholm scored his 17th of the year less than two and a half minutes later to set the Flames up with a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Andersson (2) made it five straight goals for the Calgary Flames just 1:16 into the third. He made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot top shelf.
The win knocked the Leafs off their perch as the NHL’s hottest team. The Calgary Flames supplanted them with their fifth straight victory.
And for two nights, they sure looked like the league’s elite, outscoring two of the best 11-2.
“We didn’t come out in the first like we wanted to but I thought we stuck with it. We found chances tot get some offence and capitalized on that,” Kylington told Sportsnet960 after the game.
“They dominated. They had a lot of chances. But we found a way to win. That’s the most important thing this time of year. It was nice to get a win.”