CALGARY, AB -- From some 1300 kilometers away, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavalec might’ve provided the Calgary Flames with their most important assist of this young season.
And it came on forward Michael Frolik’s third goal of the game Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, a back-breaking, seeing-eye shot from below the goal line -- the ugliest of angles -- that bounced off goaltender Cam Talbot and into the net with 8.7 seconds remaining in regulation to steal a 5-4 victory at Rexall Place.
“I’ve got a good friend, Pavelec,” began Frolik of his former Jets teammate, “and he told me that from that angle, if you hit the knee, it’s possible that it can go in. I just tried to shoot it there, it wasn’t the purpose, but I just try to shoot it there and it happened to go in.”
The goal ended a four-game losing streak, and gave Calgary (3-8-1) it’s first win in regulation.
Hopefully, suggested Flames coach Bob Hartley, it’ll spark a few more, too.
“Sometimes you need breaks,” Hartley said. “It was good to see our guys getting rewarded. Whether it’s a good goal or a bad goal, we take them all. They all count. You all remember the Winnipeg game, and that left a sour taste in our mouth. That’s hockey god’s payback. The guys were jumping. It was fun in the lockeroom. This game has to be fun. Our plan is great practices today, we got it, now let’s head to Colorado and get a big win.”
The Flames might’ve thought a 3-2 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 23 would be the kickstart to a slumping season. Instead, the Flames dropped four straight before Frolik’s first career hat trick put the breaks on a less-than-desirable streak.
They’ll try again Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
“We’ll see in Colorado,” Frolik said. “Hockey is about confidence and hopefully this win can give us more confidence and that we can have the same effort that we had in Edmonton. We were forechecking, we were battling hard, so we need to just carry it over and build our confidence.”
Confidence, it might be suggested, has been shaky at key points this season.
That too will be a focus in Colorado.
“When we went to Edmonton, we said that we needed to show the character in this room,” Frolik said. “We went there and had a very good effort and game. Just need to remember what we did there and do that every night. That’s the key, that’s the goal, and hopefully we can do that.”
Character and confidence derived largely from a Hail Mary-esque wish from the corner boards off the stick of Frolik.
“Good timing,” Hartley suggested. “At the same time, he played the game the right way the entire game and suddenly the reward is right there.
“It’s important that we just keep going. I think that we can see some big things from these guys. I fully believe in those guys. It’s a matter of getting a few wins and feeling good about ourselves.”
Frolik understands the start the Flames have had doesn’t afford them the luxury of coasting. At the same time, the hole dug isn’t too deep that Calgary can’t recover, either.
“It’s a slow start,” he said. “I think it’s not that bad. You can get a couple in a row and be right back in it. But you can’t look too far into the future and just take it game by game and make sure we have the same effort as we did last game.”
Just three wins and seven points dot the first 12 games for Calgary this season, but the season isn’t old enough to dismiss the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a possibility, suggested Frolik.
Though Edmonton and the Arizona Coyotes stand between them, the Flames trail the San Jose Sharks by five points for third in the Pacific Division -- and a guaranteed playoff appearance.
“In this league if you want to make the playoffs, every game and every point is important,” Frolik said. “If you want to be in that race, you need to play like everyone is the last one. That’s the mentality and that’s the way that it has to be.”
Understandably, it might’ve been hard for goaltender Karri Ramo to feel good about himself following a demotion to Stockton of the American Hockey League two weeks ago to trim the crease to two goaltenders.
But back as a result of a week-to-week lower body injury to Jonas Hiller provided a recall, and opportunity, for Ramo. So far, he’s taken advantage.
“Those things happen,” said Ramo, the goalie of record against Edmonton, and the projected starter versus Colorado. “I think it was more of a number management than anything saying ‘I’m not good enough as a goalie’ so I knew those things happen all the time. All I could do was just practice and play any game that I was going to play there and prepare to come back at some point. You never know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t too worried about it. Being worried in that situation is not going to help you.”
The win against the Oilers was Ramo’s first of the season, bumping his record to 1-3-0 with a 4.27 goals against average and .868 save percentage.
“(The) only people I have to prove is myself,” Ramo said. “I don’t care what anybody else really says. It comes as motivation to me. I compare that game to every game. Every time I play I give everything I have. I try to prepare my best. It was no bigger or no lesser game than any others.”