It was a statement game for the Calgary Flames.
A franchise-tying victory for goaltender Dan Vladar. A three-point night for Elias Lindholm. A hard-fought but fairly dominant contest against the Pacific Division leaders was proof the Flames have what it takes to beat the best.
With a 5-2 win over the Seattle Kraken on Friday night, the Calgary Flames head into a nine-day break on a high.
With any luck, that confidence will still be there when they get back from whatever plans they’ve made for the bye week, due back after the NHL All-Star weekend.
Who the starting goaltender may be at that point is another one of those burning questions.
Vladar has certainly made his case. Maybe the team’s play in front of him is a silent vote.
The 25-year-old joined Brian Elliott and the more memorable Mike Vernon in the Flames franchise record book with a record-tying 13 games without a regulation loss.
Elliott accomplished it in the 2016-17 season.
Vernon did it back in 1988-89 — the year the Calgary Flames hoisted the Stanley Cup.
Vladar apparently didn’t even know what those numbers were before he joined them.
“I don’t want to know,” Vladar told reporters in Seattle post-game. “Don’t tell me.”
No one is quite ready to anoint Vladar as a goaltender that can backstop his team to a Cup final. But maybe they should be.
Certainly, his 10-0-3 record over the past 13 games is a testament to his potential.
Friday was no exception. The skaters in front of him had played the previous night and a lull was inevitable after they scored three straight goals to overcome a deficit early in the first-period. He made 29 stops for the win, but was once again the team’s best penalty killer over the last half of the game as the Flames felt the bulk of the inevitable fatigue from a second game in 24 hours.
Not that they looked like they worked very hard in the 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
It was the opposite on Friday. Their feet were moving even when they started to slow down.
When it counted, Vladar was there to ensure they had a chance to recover.
A coach’s challenge that reversed a powerplay goal by Alex Wennberg helped the cause. Jared McCann toppled the goaltender and pushed Vladar’s pad enough to allow the Flames to retain their two-goal lead.
It was short-lived, with the Kraken’s stellar waiver-wire pickup Eeli Tolvanen putting the home side back to within a single strike.
It would never come, thanks to the second goal on the night from a defensive group that, missing Chris Tanev, played as poorly as it has all year against the Blackhawks.
Noah Hanifin scored the team’s fourth goal with eight minutes in regulation to help bring the Flames to within just four points of the Kraken in the standings.
Lindholm and linemate Tyler Toffoli gave the Flames their first lead. Nikita Zadorov sent them to intermission with a 3-1 advantage.
Blake Coleman got an empty netter to round out the scoring and show the world the team they think they are, not the one on display against the Hawks.
“I think everyone, maybe even people that don’t understand hockey, they knew that wasn’t us (Thursday),” Vladar said. “A great bounce-back by our group.”