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Wild third period sees Flames take two-goal lead, lose it, tie it again late, then win it in a shootout

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

It was gut-check time.

And while it wasn't all pretty, they certainly came through when it mattered most.

Thursday's tilt at the Scotiabank Saddledome had a feel to it - one that stressed the importance of a good showing with a tough trip on tap, beginning Saturday, outdoors, in the frosty bite of the infamous prairie gust.


Video: "The powerplay was good, very dangerous."


It was all even through two.

The elation of a 3, then 4-2 lead took over soon after, followed again by the blow of the visitors clawing their way back from the ashes.

The Flames faced every situation imaginable; all kinds of adversity, to the point where it looked bleak.

But after Mark Pysyk gave the Panthers a 5-4 lead at 14:59 of the third, the Flames - who had to play catch-up for the first time in the game - had a little magic left in 'em.

Bennett tied things up at five with only 2:43 to play, driving the net and pouncing on his own rebound, burying it up high to score his second of the year at a most pivotal time.

Sean Monahan then scored the shootout winner as the Flames improved to 6-5-1 on the year with a 6-5 triumph over the Florida Panthers.

Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and added another in the breakaway competition, while Austin Czarnik and Mark Giordano had the others in a harum-scarum, 65-plus minute affair that saw the Panthers erase 1-0, 2-1, and 4-2 decifits.

David Rittich made 18 saves and stopped both shooters - Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov - in the shootout.

Even at two after 40 minutes of play, the Flames took a 3-2 lead, 32 seconds into the final frame, with No. 19 and his Czech mate, Michael Frolik, hooking for a second time in the contest.

Frolik showed great patience on a 2-on-1, feeding Tkachuk with a lovely saucer pass that allowed the sure-handed winger to carefully guide it home.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Slick pass from Fro, solid finish from Chucky.#FLAvsCGY | #Flames


The Flames looked to put the game away on a powerplay shortly thereafter, but despite peppering the goal with some incredible chances, it remained a 3-2 game.

First, Mark Giordano bombed a 35-foot one-timer off the far post. Then, Sean Monahan was stopped point-blank after taking a feed between the hash marks. Finally, another post and a Milan Lucic effort in tight, all hurdling to safety.

But persistence paid off and the Flames opened a two-goal lead, anyway, with the captain driving the net and getting a piece of an Elias Lindholm pass en route.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Gio does it all.#FLAvsCGY | #Flames


Game over, right?

Not so.

Josh Brown unloaded a long shot through traffic, beating Rittich only a minute after the Giordano tally, and Evgenii Dadonov levelled the score once again, with a beautiful finish on a 2-on-1 with Barkov before the 10-minute mark of the period.

The Flames were all over the Panthers early on, but had little to show for it thanks to the stellar goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky.

Tkachuk set the tone with some great work on the forecheck, reading a defender and picking off a reverse feed behind the net, thusly swinging a pass out front to a wide-open Mikael Backlund in front, but Bobrovsky came up with a circus-like blocker save to keep the game goalless in the opening minute.

The reunited '3M' Line was a positive 75% on the Corsi ledger after one.

Moments later, with Sam Bennett in the bin serving an elbowing penalty, the Flames had two or three good looks that put the Cats on their heels. First, Mark Giordano stepped up and carried the puck down wall, drawing a pair of defenders before putting a pass across the seam and into the wheelhouse of Mark Jankowski, but the big man's one-timer sailed wide on the far side.

The puck then careened back toward the goalmouth, but just out of the reach of Derek Ryan, who would have otherwise had a tap-in with the goaltender splayed out on all fours.

Finally, the pursuit paid off, as Austin Czarnik and the second powerplay unit struck for the second time in as many games.

Czarnik took a pass from TJ Brodie, walked in off the right circle and rifled a shot/pass in off the skate of Aaron Ekblad, who was locked in a battle with Rasmus Andersson at the edge of the blue paint.

Milan Lucic picked up the other assist. Czarnik, meanwhile, now has points in three straight games.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Big Z with his 2���nd goal of the season!#FLAvsCGY | #Flames


Shots on goal favoured the Flames 8-5 after one. Rittich wasn't overly busy with only one of the five shots registering as an official high-quality chance, but what a save it was to keep the Flames on top. Colton Sceviour fought off a check and put a wrap-around pass into the feet of Noel Acciari, but Rittich was quick to react, reaching back and snatching the puck off the goal line.

However, the Panthers came out firing in the second and were promptly rewarded with the tying goal at 4:28.

The Flames turned the puck over at their own blueline, allowing Huberdeau to muscle his way in, lock on to his target and snipe it upstairs, over Rittich's left shoulder.

Tkachuk put the Flames back in front at 11:59 when he and Frolik hooked for a beauty off the rush. Frolik made a tasty, soft-area touch pass that connected with his linemate at the left dot, and Tkachuk did the rest with a poke - perfectly placed - under the bar.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: 3��� goals on the year for 1���9���#FLAvsCGY | #Flames


But, again, the Panthers replied quickly as the game turned into a bit of a track meet. This time, it was MacKenzie Weegar's long shot through traffic that evened the score, beating a screened Rittich low on the blocker side.  

Shots were even at 12 apiece with the score deadlocked 40 minutes, setting up for a wild finish.




"There was lots going on. Definitely lots going on. I liked us. I thought we were in control there in the third. Had some zone time. Gio made it 4-2 and I thought we were in a good spot. They pushed. we didn't handle it very well and our coverage broke down a little bit, and then huge goal by Benny to get us into overtime and the shootout."


"We're not sharp enough right now. There were spurts, again, but we know that's not the way we want to play, to win a 6-5 game. I thought we were resilient, which was nice. That was a huge forechecking goal by Benny to get us the point. … We'll take the two points, but definitely some things we'll have to go over again and clean up."


"We want to get to our game here. There are times when it's too loose out there. Feels too much like a turnover-fest. I thought 4-2 in the third, you're in a good spot. We didn't like to give them three, but pretty resilient by our group to fight back and get us those two points."


"That's obviously a big two points, but we don't want to get comfortable in games like that. We have a two-goal lead in the third, you have to put it away. You think back to one of those games, one of those cost us in the playoffs. We have to tighten it up. … It just seemed when it was 4-2, they were pressing and we had no answer for them. We were maybe a little sloppy with our puck play and stuff like that, but you learn from it. For our team to be successful, we're not going to win those 6-5 (games) trying to come back from it. That's a stressful game. So, it would have been much easier if we just protected that two-goal lead and got out of it with two points that way, but ultimately, in the end, we still got the win and that's all that matters."


Video: "Pretty resilient by our group to fight back."


Read more in Say What - A Resilient Win



Flames Video Coach Jamie Pringle was a part of the Florida Panthers organization as their video coach from 2008 to 2011 before coming to Calgary for the 2011-12 season. … Panthers defenceman Keith Yandle is the NHL's current Iron Man, playing in his 807th straight game tonight. Yandle is the first U.S.-born player to reach 800 consecutive games played and only the fifth player all-time. Last year, Yandle set the franchise record for single-season points (62) and assists (53) and powerplay points (39) by a defenceman. ... Austin Czarnik left the game late in the second period after colliding with a Panther and tumbling awkwardly to the ice. He did not return.



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Thursday's game (starters in bold):


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic - Mark Jankowski - Austin Czarnik


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


David Rittich



The Flames hit the road for a five-game, 10-day road trip beginning on Saturday with the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic against the Winnipeg Jets at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Sask. From there, the Flames will get their first two-day break of the new season before continuing the voyage on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Stops in Nashville, Columbus and Washington will follow before the club returns home to open a four-game homestand on Tuesday, Nov. 5 against the Arizona Coyotes (click here for tickets).

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