The Calgary Flames were eager to bounce back from their most embarrassing loss of the season. They made a statement in the first period against a very good Minnesota Wild team.
Although the Wild scored first, the Flames took control in the opening frame and rode the momentum to a 7-3 win at the Saddledome in the first of a home-and-home set with the Minnesotans.
Tilting the ice with a lopsided shot count of 18-4 through the first 20 minutes, the hosts did manage to continue the one streak that didn’t die in Vancouver a couple of nights earlier.
The Calgary Flames tied a franchise record with their 11th straight win on home ice – a huge response to the travesty on the west coast.
A couple of Wild goals in the third period – including a late one from sniper Kirill Kaprizov – made the final score more interesting. But that will just serve as a reminder about the way the Flames have to play for every minute of every game.
Intense, responsible, driven, physical, to name just a few elements.
They played that way just enough on Saturday night to escape a second straight loss after the crushing 7-1 decision in Vancouver.
Saturday night’s game had a bit of a playoff feel despite the fact the Flames and Wild haven’t met yet this season.
Part of that was because of the physical nature of it – with Brett Ritchie and Brad Richardson entering the lineup in place of youngsters Dillon Dube and Adam Ruzicka.
Making things difficult for the other teams’ best players is something the Flames take pride in doing and they gave Kaprizov a hostile welcome at every opportunity. It seemed to fire up the 24-year-old Russian in the late stages. Like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept getting up.
He fired his 24th goal of the season with a perfect shot to beat Jacob Markstrom from a sneaky angle to and bring the Wild to within a pair of strikes. Matthew Tkachuk and Tyler Toffoli scored empty netters to secure the win.
Fitting, since Toffoli and Tkachuk started the Flames takeover in the first period.
NHL trade newcomer Toffoli tied things up after Freddie Gaudreau opened the scoring and Tkachuk gave them the lead just 1:20 later. Andrew Mangiapane – who clearly can score at home, too – and Blake Coleman piled on in the second period.
A scary incident that saw Calgary Flames defenceman hit the boards head-first had the team rattled in the third. Veteran Nick Bjugstad and Kaprizov took advantage to set up what they hope is a tighter contest on Tuesday in the rematch.
“We all love Shilly (Kylington) and you never want to see one of your teammates lay down like that,” Calgary Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson said of the injury on Sportsnet 960. “He got off fine and he’s doing better now.
“I think our heads were in a bit of a different place, but we managed to pull it out.”