Trap game? Not for the Calgary Flames.
Hot off the Flames’ stellar victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs and just ahead of a rematch against the Western Conference’s top squad, the Flames weren’t about to take the Detroit Red Wings lightly.
With a flight to Denver immediately following Saturday’s early-evening contest, the Flames face the Colorado Avalanche on the road for the second time in less than a week. It will be their fifth game in seven days.
It would have been easy to mail it in against the Wings. Instead, the Flames peppered goaltender Thomas Greiss and secured a 3-0 win to continue their rise in the West.
“Proud of the players. Tough to play. Another tough turnaround game,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said afterward. “Not much break in it. But stuck with it.”
Sticking to the game plan amid mental and physical fatigue isn’t easy, but it’s something the Flames are accomplishing more often during a run of 16-2-1 in their last 19 games.
“Stick to the game plan. It’s different than sticking with it. Stick to the game plan.” Sutter said. “Is it hard? It’s how you win. Winning is hard. If you break and you try to get your goal, your assist or your point, there’s a good chance you make a mistake, a good chance you lose. We’re learning about that.”
It would have been easy for a team as successful as the Flames to get frustrated by Greiss stopping such an onslaught of offensive opportunities over nearly 50 minutes.
Only Elias Lindholm beat him with a powerplay marker in the first period. Lindholm’s career-high 30th goal was one of 19 shots the Flames took in the first 20 minutes.
Not much changed in the second, with a 31-5 edge in shots still only resulting in that one goal on the man advantage.
“We had a lot of good chances, but we’ve gotta learn how to win close games too,” Sutter said. “If their goalie would have stood on his head, and they’d won the game, it might have been frustrating.”
Instead, the Flames kept firing. Just before the 50-minute mark, Tyler Toffoli scored his eighth goal and 13th point in his 13th game as a member of the Calgary Flames. Another powerplay goal.
Then Blake Coleman iced it with his 13th of the year.
Meanwhile, the Flames’ goalie stayed with it despite the lack of attention – making all 14 saves he faced in the third period to climb to within one of Miikka Kiprusoff’s record 10 shutouts in a season.
And there’s plenty of time to do it. With many reasons to believe the final total will be much harder for future netminders to crack.
“It’s definitely a team stat,” said Markstrom. “I try to tell the guys to keep it going and keep playing this way. It’s fun to be a goalie on this team.
“This whole home stretch has been awesome. Since we got full capacity, the Dome has been great. They’re helping us a lot, and it’s extra motivating to play better and get some extra momentum swings in a game when it’s really tight.”
Sutter, in a way only Sutter can, praised Markstrom’s performance. Sort of.
“It’s his job. Playing on a good team. Simple,” he shrugged. “He had to make some saves in the third, so he stayed focused. It’s his job.”
Sutter was a little more effusive when it came to Michael Stone’s late addition to the lineup.
A surprise injury led to a late scratch for Oliver Kylington, which meant Stone would get into his third game of the season. His first since early December.
“Proud of his effort,” Sutter said of the veteran seventh defenceman. “Tells you about what he puts in every day.”
And in case you were wondering, it had nothing to do with his assist on the game’s third goal.
“I didn’t know he got one,” Sutter said with a laugh. “So good for him.”