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Calgary Flames getting their swagger back

They needed the two points,

But they needed to feel a little better about themselves, too.

Mission accomplished.

For the first time in three weeks and just the fourth time in 27 outings, the Calgary Flames won a game in regulation.

Darn near dominated it actually, winning by a two-goal margin for the first time this NHL season.

The fact that they did it against a division rival in the San Jose Sharks is key, but the notion they did it convincingly is of utmost importance, as a convincing win was needed to do exactly that — convince everyone including themselves they are more than just a 3-on-3 novelty act that has fully reverted to the rebuild the NHL expected here last year.

“We played a great game,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley, uttering words he’s rarely spoken this season.

“We had a rough start to the season — it’s like a boxer who takes a real good one on the jaw the first second of the fight. You need to get your game and your fight back. It’s way easier said than done. It seems the more you’re pushing the more you are going backwards.

“But we are pushing out of the hole we created, and you look at the standings, and we are right there.”

Indeed, they are right there, as are signs of their swagger.

Mikael Backlund led the team with five shots and two points to earn the fireman’s helmet, but the list of standout performances in Tuesday’s 4-2 win was long.

Jiri Hudler awoke from a season-long slumber to get the scoring going early with some shocking chemistry with opening goal-scorer Markus Granlund.

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie were as dominating a duo as they were last year, Dougie Hamilton was solid, and Michael Frolik potted his seventh in timely fashion, notching the winner early in the second period.

Then they held on.

Easily.

It moved the Flames from last in the NHL to just four points out of a playoff spot in the Pathetic Pacific.

What’s more, their seven-game winning streak at home has an excellent chance of being prolonged given the Buffalo Sabres are here Thursday and the Flames are feeling all-world.

Oh, and goaltender Karri Ramo has done well to distance himself from his early-season shakes, stopping 31 shots in his latest win as the Flames go-to guy they so sorely lacked the first month-and–a-half.

It will shock no one in town to learn the Flames now have their first three-game winning streak, with two more at home on the docket before a four-game road swing.

Sean Monahan scored his first in six games and appeared to add his second midway through the night when The Goal That Never Was had a particularly vociferous crowd on its feet, thanks to the latest instalment of the Johnny Gaudreau Chronicles.

His first move at the blueline shed the Flames magician of his defender and drew an audible gasp from the fans, followed by a second move that drew a roar before his no-look backdoor pass found Monahan for an easy finish.

Alas, the Sharks challenged it as an offside earlier in the play, negating the highlight-reel goal.

“Sad it got waved off by review but just draws two or three guys to him,” Giordano said. “Those are the type of plays he makes.”

Last year, it was the Flames’ improbable 22-6-1 divisional record that ended up landing them their unlikely playoff spot, demonstrating just how crucial such matchups are.

This year, the team is now 3-4-1 in the division thanks to a beatdown of the Sharks the team needed badly.

Heck, they even scored on the powerplay — just the second time in 10 games they’ve done so.

“That’s huge — it’s big for our team to be able to hold the lead and right from the beginning of the game we played well all 60 minutes of the game,” said Flames rookie Sam Bennett.

“It’s definitely nice to see we can control an entire game.”

Make no mistake, this city cherishes the last-second heroics that got them the first two wins of this home stand.

But winning with a little more aplomb is the tonic everyone in that dressing room needed.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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