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CAM YOU BELIEVE IT?

Talbot shines, paves the way for Lindholm to score twice and lead the Flames to third straight victory

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

At a glance, the numbers are awfully telling.

But if you sit down, dig deep and really examine them with a fine-tooth comb…

Well, the story doesn't change:

Cam Talbot has been absolutely phenomenal for the Flames lately.

 

Video: Alanna Nolan wraps up the Flames' 2-1 win in Chicago

 

The 'Goalbuster' had another in a long line of first-rate showings, foiling the hometown Chicago Blackhawks with 31 saves to lead the Flames to their third straight win, 2-1, on Tuesday in the Windy City.

Twenty-six of them came in the first 40 minutes alone.

So... Just how good has he been?

Let's break it down.

In six appearances dating back to Dec. 7 - a 33-save, 4-3 victory over the LA Kings - Talbot's numbers are, in a word, stunning. Overall save percentages of .958, .935, .939, .950 and the latest .969, highlight a head-spinning resume.

He's .938 overall - second only to Tristan Jarry of the Penguins in the last month.

And at evens?

He's darn-near unbeatable.

Entering tonight, his .953, even-strength save percentage in that same span ranked second among goalies with regular work, trailing only the Maple Leafs backup, Michael Hutchinson (who's played two fewer games) in 5-on-5 play.

That good.

Better than Bishop, Lehner, Hellebuyck, Binnington, Price and all the rest.

Tonight's victory brings that even-strength number to a staggering .954.

As a partner to the Flames' No. 1 puck-stopper, David Rittich, you couldn't ask for much more.

Talbot's heroics paved the way for Elias Lindholm - who played in career game No. 500 this evening - to shine offensively, scoring twice for the visitors and securing the 300th point of his NHL career in the process.

Perfection.

All part of a 2-1 victory that moved the Flames to 23-17-5 on the year.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring with 31.8 seconds left in the first, after the Flames' top line got pinned in their own end for an extended period. Rookie defenceman Adam Boqvist made a great into the middle, backpedaling at the point before filtering a shot through traffic. Dominik Kubalik - who was locked in a battle with Mark Giordano in front - pried the stick free, set the screen on Talbot, and got a piece of the incoming projectile, redirecting it through the wickets for his 13th of the season.

It was otherwise quiet period for both sides offensively, with the shots favouring the Hawks 13-6 after one.

The Flames wasted little time manufacturing a response, flattening the score only 14 seconds into the middle frame to cap a nifty bit of work on the forecheck. Matthew Tkachuk made a great play at the far circle, retrieving a loose puck and bringing it into the middle, before feeding it through the legs and Boqvist and right onto the tape of Lindholm in the slot.

The sniper made no mistake, spinning and firing it five-hole on Corey Crawford.

 

Video: CGY@CHI: Lindholm sends shot through Crawford's pads

 

TJ Brodie picked up the other assist with a heads-up play to pinch down and keep the puck alive along the wall.

The Hawks had a great chance to restore the lead when Patrick Kane got in behind the D and sped off on a breakaway, but Talbot came up with massive blocker save to keep the game tied.

Opportunity arose only a short time later when back-to-back penalties put the Flames on an extended, 5-on-3 powerplay.

But the homeside came up with a huge kill, keeping the game deadlocked.

Not for long, though.

Tkachuk and Lindholm went right back to work and performed a little magic for the second time in the game, shortly thereafter. Tkachuk, pressuring Connor Murphy to cough up the puck, made a beautiful intercept in the middle of the ice, before feeding Lindholm with a back pass to the near circle.

You know the rest.

No. 28 buried it with a filthy snipe that kissed all three pipes on the way in, stunning the sold-out at the United Center with his team-leading 18th of the season.

 

Video: CGY@CHI: Lindholm rips shot past Crawford

 

Talk about a milestone. Two goals, including the 300th point of your National Hockey League career, all in your 500th career game at that level.

And for a player of Lindholm's calibre, this is only the beginning.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: .@lindholmelias had himself A Night. pic.twitter.com/upWeDCTymA

 

With the Blackhawks pressing late, Talbot came up with a strong stop - this time off the stick of Zack Smith, who was the recipient of a sweet, backdoor feed that could have been tap-in at the side of the cage. Instead, Talbot got a stick on it and steered it to safety.

Calm.

Coolly.

Just as he has been for some time now.

 

Video: Lindholm's milestone night leads Flames by Blackhawks

 

THEY SAID IT:

TALBOT ON SUCCESSFUL DAD/BROTHER/MENTOR ROAD TRIP:

"It's always special to have them on the road. To be able to pull out two big wins, with where we are in the standings, is huge. It's more fun to do it when they're up there watching. They helped get us to where we are today, and were able to pay them back a little. You can never fully repay them, but hopefully this is a fun trip for them. We enjoyed having them."

TALBOT ON HIS 31-SAVE EFFORT:

"I saw a lot of good things. We didn't give up a whole lot in the first. In the second, we knew they were going to have a little bit of a push, which they did, but we weathered it. Then in the third, that's how you have to lock down leads. I don't think we played a better third period than that in a long time. We didn't give them anything, even on the penalty kill. ... Give the guys in front of me a lot of credit, they really locked it down in the third and preserved that win for us."

 

Video: "I don't think we've played a better third period"

 

LINDHOLM ON HIS MILESTONE NIGHT:

"You dream of playing in the NHL and you look back, and that's a lot of games and a lot of preparation. You look more towards the 1000-game (mark), but it's a long way there and I'll remember this one, for sure."

LINDHOLM ON HIS BEAUTIFUL, SECOND-PERIOD SNIPE:

"It was kind of a lucky shot. If I get 30 more, I don't think I'd get another one like that! That was a nice shot."

 

Video: "It was kind of a lucky shot"

 

GEOFF WARD ON HOW THE GAME PLAYED OUT:

"I thought we weathered the storm early. In the second period, we started taking over the game a little bit. I thought we carried it through the last couple periods pretty well. I would have liked to have seen us generate a little more, but for as hard as they are to play defensively because of how they move and how they force you to make decisions, I thought our guys did a good job with it. ... For us, the last two periods were really solid for us."

TALBOT ON THE TEAM'S GROWING CONFIDENCE ON THE ROAD:

"I think we play simple. I think our guys - last year they got some confidence playing from behind. This year, I think now that we're starting to grind some games out, I think we're getting some confidence again playing from behind, so there's no panic on the bench. But we seem to keep the game pretty simple on the road, keep (the puck) moving ahead, and we've had some timely scoring. That certainly helps."

 

Video: "There's no panic on the bench"

 

ONE-TIMERS:

Playing his first game since New Year's Eve (against the Blackhawks, no less), 29-year-old Zac Rinaldo sure made presence felt in his return to the Flames' lineup. The 5-foot-10, 192-lb. winger had seven in the first period alone, and finished with 7:24 in ice time.

 

THE LINEUP:

Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:

FORWARDS

Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Mikael Backlund
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Sam Bennett

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

 

But the blender came out to start the second period, and following forward lines were used the rest of the way:

 

Milan Lucic - Elias Lindholm - Matthew Tkachuk
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Dillon Dube
Sam Bennett - Derek Ryan - Mikael Backlund
Andrew Mangiapane - Mark Jankowski - Zac Rinaldo

 

UP NEXT:

The Flames return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday when they host the Minnesota Wild in the first of a two-game homestand (click here for tickets). It also happens to be Al MacInnis bobblehead night! Be one of the first 3,500 fans in the building and you'll receive a complimentary MacInnis bobblehead. Then, on Saturday, the Flames welcome the Edmonton Oilers to town for the highly anticipated Battle of Alberta rematch (click here for tickets).

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