The Calgary Flames had a couple of welcomes to the Saddledome: the Columbus Blue Jackets as the visitors and much more importantly, Tyler Toffoli as the newest Flame. Calgary was looking to extend their win streak to seven as well as end Columbus’ own win streak of three. If Calgary wins, they’d find themselves in sole possession of first in the Pacific Division.
The Flames got an early lead just over two minutes into the game thanks to a point shot from Erik Gudbranson that beat Elvis Merzlikins. Funnily enough, Toffoli’s first steps on the ice as a Flame already saw his new team with the lead—surely a welcomed change of pace after winning just eight games with Montreal this season.
Throughout the first period, the two teams were relatively even. However, towards the end of the frame, the Flames went ahead by two. Elias Lindholm sent the puck across the crease and it was neatly tucked into the net by Andrew Peeke for an own goal. You have to be good to be lucky, and the goal conveniently extends Lindholm’s goal streak to five games.
However, before the period was over, the Blue Jackets pulled back within one. Entering the Flames zone on a three-on-two, Patrik Laine‘s shot went off of Noah Hanifin‘s stick right to Adam Boqvist for a quick shot that beat Daniel Vladar. This would be Vladar’s first start since January 7—Jacob Markstrom started 12 straight games in between.
Vladar was solid in the first period and was just a microsecond too late in getting over to save the shot. The period finished with the Flames up by one goal.
While it’s hard to complain about a 2–1 lead, the Flames were uncharacteristic in that they let the Blue Jackets stay too close with them in the first. That said, the Blue Jackets are on a bit of a hot streak themselves since they were blown out by the Flames earlier in the January.
The second period saw the Flames getting back on track. They were relentless on the puck and pretty much smothered anything the Blue Jackets tried to do. The middle frame was dominated by Calgary, and they ended up getting rewarded for their efforts.
The Blue Jackets were unable to clear their own zone as the Flames’ first line pressured, and a clearing attempt was intercepted by Lindholm before it exited the zone. A quick pass to Matthew Tkachuk created a give-and-go play between himself and Johnny Gaudreau. Two quick passes later and Tkachuk had a wide open net to shoot at to restore their two-goal lead.
Late in the period, the Flames were on the penalty kill with Blake Coleman in the box. With under a minute remaining, Andrew Mangiapane was able to get the puck to Dillon Dube at the Flames’ blue line. Dube skated into the Blue Jackets’ zone on a two-on-one with Mangiapane, but elected to hold on, shoot, and score. It’d be the Flames’ fourth shorthanded goal of the season and Dube’s first goal since January 6.
The second period was entirely controlled by the Flames and they were up by three goals heading into the third.
The Flames are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to not just defending a lead, but continue to create offence when leading. That remained true for this time around.
Just under seven minutes into the third period, Adam Ruzicka scored to give the Flames a four-goal lead on a shot that snuck under Merzlikin’s pad. It’d be Ruzicka’s second goal in as many games.
Less than two minutes later, the Blue Jackets cut back into the lead. While Vladar had the first shot saved, the rebound was quickly backhanded into the net by Zach Werenski.
With less than nine minutes to go, it happened. Gaudreau sent a puck high into the Blue Jackets zone and Toffoli picked it up coming off the bench.
Skating on one foot for what felt like an eternity, he went across the crease, got Merzlikins to bite, and had a wide open net to neatly tuck the puck in on his backhand. He scored a highlight-reel goal for his 10th goal of the season, but more importantly his first as a Calgary Flame. Picture perfect.
The Flames continued to pressure as the clock wound down, but 6–2 would be the final score. Calgary snapped another opponent’s win streak while continuing their own—now on a seven-game win streak. Oh, and they are first in the Pacific Division. Check out the data visualisations from the game below!
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