Flames Overcome Another Rough Start, Beat ’Canes 3-2 in OT
Jacob Markstrom and the Calgary Flames aren’t doing things the easy way. But a bend-but-don’t break attitude is ensuring the most important statistic of all.
The Flames found themselves behind early — again — but came back to force overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes. One point secured.
They got the second when Tyler Toffoli scored on a stellar setup by blueliner Rasmus Andersson, who escaped Martin Necas AND Sebastian Aho along the boards before finding Toffoli with a perfect pass for the winning one-timer.
The 3-2 overtime win gave the Calgary Flames a 4-1 start to the season.
Early game breakdowns allowed the opportunistic Hurricanes storm out to a 2-0 lead just past the halfway point of the opening period. For the third time this season, Markstrom allowed a goal against in the first four minutes. For the second time, it was on the first shot he faced.
But as he did in wins over the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, Markstrom made every stop the rest of the way. The Flames will happily take those timely saves and the points that follow.
Markstrom made 14 stops in the second and third periods and another in overtime — but maybe none bigger than during a four-minute penalty kill in the third period. His best was a block on Seth Jarvis in close to keep things tied at two apiece late in the game.
“Part of the penalty kill is the goaltender. It’s not only the saves it’s directing the play and stuff like that,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said post-game.
That save looked pedestrian because of the goaltender’s read and positioning on the play, but it was the kind of stop we took for granted during his phenomenal season last year. The one that landed him as the runner-up for the Vezina. Considering the final results so far, there’s probably little to worry about in the Calgary Flames crease.
That wasn’t the prevailing pondering off the hop on Saturday night.
Aho busted in with speed on his first shift, and Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin couldn’t close the gap on Aho’s inside move. The finish to the five-hole on the fast break to the net had Markstrom looking skyward.
The fans, too.
Is this really happening again?
Things got worse before they got better when Markstrom lost track of a fluttering shot by Calvin de Haan before the game was 11 minutes old.
But that was it. He slammed the door shut from there.
Part of that was the play of the group in front of him. The Calgary Flames allowed just two shots against during the second period as they poured on the pressure.
Nazem Kadri gave them the momentum in the dying seconds of the first frame with a powerplay goal that cut the lead in half.
Brett Ritchie scored a sneaky one from the goal-line, catching Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta cheating. And with Markstrom turning away a dozen in the third, it was off to overtime.
“I heard (Nikita) Zadorov was going backside,” Ritchie said of his goal while talking to Sportsnet 960 after the game. “I just tried to put it in the goalie’s feet, actually, hoping for a rebound.
“But it found a way.”
So did the Flames.
“He doesn’t need many chances,” Sutter said of Toffoli and the trust he shows the veteran. “When he touches the puck, usually something good happens.”