Maybe the best part of Calgary Flames’ massive shutout victory over the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Wednesday night – no cannon.
The trademark blast from the old powder keg is something opposing players, coaches, management and media members visiting Nationwide Arena dread. Even when you know it’s coming, it shocks the system if only for a few seconds. But with no goals, there was no blast.
The silence, however, marked something significant for the Flames. With a franchise-high 62 shots on goal and another dominant night from top-liners Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, the Flames also added important elements they haven’t always had going at the same time.
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom wasn’t busy but he was sharp in earning his league-best sixth shutout of the season. His heaviest workload coming in the first period in which the Flames only managed one goal (Mikael Backlund’s first in 19 games) despite outplaying their hosts. In fact, the Flames didn’t add their second goal until late in the second period.
Late goals from Andrew Mangiapane at 15:14 and Tkachuk with just six seconds left in the middle frame finally gave the Flames some breathing room.
They piled on in the third period as the Blue Jackets surrendered, with Elias Lindholm scoring 30 seconds in, Erik Gudbranson scoring his first as a Flame, and Tkachuk adding his second of the night for good measure to hit the 20-goal mark just 39 games in.
“That’s 60 minutes of really well played hockey,” said Markstrom, who faced 23 shots on the night.
He pointed out the fact his teammates were laying out to block shots with a six-goal lead and 30 seconds to play just to preserve the shutout, which negates the 60-minute cliché.
Complete effort led by dominant top line
On the flip side, Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins was hammered with 62 shots.
“I mean, busy, for sure,” Markstrom said with a laugh when asked if he could put that into perspective as a fellow netminder. “I don’t think I’ve been up there in my pro career. Seeing a lot of rubber – that’s pretty much it.”
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter concurred with Markstrom, and a media member who suggested it looked like a complete game from his perspective but wondered if there was anything the coach might want to pick apart.
“We need something out of everybody. Tonight was a little more complete,” Sutter said, admitting that the top line was still worth gushing about as the trio combined for three goals and six points – including three assists for Johnny Gaudreau.
“Yeah, they scored some highlight goals for sure. Johnny was in full control of the puck. Matthew was going to the net,” Sutter said.
Gaudreau continues hot streak for Flames
Gaudreau was a man possessed. Or maybe a man possession. He was dominant dangling the puck around all night, setting up his teammates and adding dollar signs to his next contract. Gaudreau has seven points in two games and 18 points in nine games since the holiday break. Four of those games have seen him earn three or more points.
Maybe he was motivated by the reminder earlier in the day that Columbus was the site of his first – and only – healthy scratch as a Calgary Flames rookie.
“Obviously no player wants to get scratched,” Gaudreau recalled of the 2014-15 rookie season. “I was a young guy, and I wasn’t playing well. I try to forget that memory, but it was the first time I was scratched.
“It was tough. I thought I might get sent down — but I didn’t. I played well my next game and I just put it behind me.”