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Monahan paces Flames over Flyers for sixth-straight win

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Calgary Flames, Jack Eichel, Sean Monahan

Whatever got into Sean Monahan, the Calgary Flames could use more of it.

Whether it was a sign of a return to form for the perennial 20-plus goal-scorer, or a foreshadowed farewell as part of a blockbuster trade package, the 27-year-old had some serious bounce in his surgically repaired hip on Hockey Night in Canada as the Flames returned home and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 Saturday night.

Monahan had his first goal of the year and added an assist – both on the powerplay – to help the Flames keep their winning streak alive at six games after sweeping all five contests out east this week.

They still have yet to trail in a game during that span.

Play answers Flames coach’s callout

Monahan’s showing seemed to answer one of the trademark Darryl Sutter comments after the morning skate, when the Flames head coach told media members he expected the team to play better than they did in the road trip finale in Pittsburgh (a 4-0 shutout backboned by 45 saves from goalie Jacob Markstrom).

“You guys base it on winning and losing, so … I base it on performance,” Sutter said when asked what they can take from the road trip into their

“All parts of our game can be a lot better. Individual performances. (Defence) and forward connected better. Communication between our goalie and our defencemen. Time and score – manage that. Players taking the next step in terms of what’s expected of them.”

It’s that last one that made Monahan’s performance significant. He started the year alongside Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube, but quickly saw his playing partners change to Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, with Dube shifting to centre and Brett Ritchie joining the youngsters on the other bottom-six trio.

Monahan does damage on top powerplay unit

Sticking on the first powerplay unit, however, the man-advantage is where Monahan did most of his damage on Saturday. He finished with five shots on goal and seemed to have more energy and agility than he has all season long. He nearly opened the scoring in the first period

It could be that he’s finding his fitness level, foot speed and hockey sense returning to normal after spending his summer recovering from serious hip surgery. By now you likely know about how much it hampered him last year as he played through it.

Monahan is the Calgary Flames player most often linked to the Jack Eichel trade rumours. His slot in the lineup and larger salary make him an obvious candidate. But if nothing pans out there, the Flames could use what a healthy Monahan has brought to the team for the better part of eight seasons.

Third-period goals from a possessed Matthew Tkachuk on the powerplay, Mikael Backlund in an empty net, and Johnny Gaudreau spoiled what was a pretty decent 32-save showing from Flyers goaltender Carter Hart with his family in the Saddledome stands.

Markstrom made 20 stops for his third shutout in his last four starts, making 126 of 127 shots he’s faced.

They made it tough for Sutter to find something to criticize.

But like his team over the past six games, don’t bet against him.

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