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KING SLAYERS

Flames run roughshod on Kings in a game where six regulars got the night off

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

For some, it was a night off - a chance to rest up and the re-charge the batteries.  

For others, a time to ride the wave and sharpen the saw.

Having secured first place in the Pacific Division and Western Conference with a Sunday victory over the San Jose Sharks, the Flames gave a number of veterans a rare game as a spectator.

Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Noah Hanifin all set up in the press box, while Oscar Fantenberg, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone, Juuso Valimaki and Alan Quine all suited up after long absences, and Sam Bennett returned from injury.

 

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Unfortunately, Bennett - who scored in his return from a five-game vacancy - left again late in the second period.

More on that later.

While the shake-up in the roster resulted in all kinds of line shuffling, the character of this group and those heating up within it remained unchanged.

What was once a close game had the doors blown off when Johnny Gaudreau put the Flames up by a strike, 3-2, early in the middle frame.

Five more followed.

James Neal gave the Flames a two-goal lead only 13 seconds into the third period, then made a beautiful pass to Derek Ryan to give 'Doc' a pair on the night just 2:09 later, as the visitors went on to take a 7-2 victory on Monday at Staples Center.

Andrew Mangiapane and Mark Jankowski scored just 15 seconds apart midway through the period to round out the scoring, and David Rittich made 23 saves to help the Flames record their 50th win of the season for only the second time in franchise history.

Jankowski finished with a season-high three-point effort in the victory.

 

Video: Ryan, Jankowski lead Flames in rout of Kings

 

"I thought everyone was great," said Neal, who now has points in three straight. "It was a real smart game by our team.

"I just felt with the rest, I took it as a blessing. I did everything I could to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. You don't want to use it as an excuse, but I've played a lot of hockey - a lot of meaningful games [over the past two years] - and sometimes you get so ramped up, and then you come down a little bit. So, for me, I wanted to get back to where I know I can be, the player I can be.

"It was a little bit of a reset for me. Body's felt great coming back. I'm skating a lot better, feeling good around the net, good on pucks, being a bit more patient.

"It all adds up."

The DAG Line got the Flames on the board early in this one, out-working the Kings with another tireless effort deep in enemy territory. Kylington - who was playing in his first game since Mar. 4 - put a long slapper on goal that stung Jonathan Quick up high. The rebound then fell to Ryan in front, and the veteran capitalized with a quick shot over the pad while tumbling to the ice to make it 1-0 at 2:07.

Ryan now has a dozen goals on the year, and has that many points in his last 11 games alone.

 

Video: CGY@LAK: Ryan tips home second goal of the game

 

"We were real good," the veteran said. "It was a tough game to go out and play, obviously, with things the way they are. But I thought, with a lot of new guys drawing into the lineup, they played very well against a tough LA team. They came into our barn a week ago and played really well. It's not easy to play against them. I was really happy with the way our roster went out there. I thought we were really professional and played a good game.

"It's good to see some guys break out a little bit before the playoffs and get the confidence going."

Kyle Clifford evened things up at 13:29 off a setup from Ilya Kovalchuk, but the Flames got it right back with a greasy one just 41 seconds later.

Bennett won a puck battle at the side of the net, fed it out front to Jankowski, and got a piece of the bouncing puck on a choppy return feed to grab his 13th of the campaign.

But the Kings battled back and made it a 2-2 game before the period was out, with Dustin Brown notching his 22nd of the season off a beauty of a slap pass by Drew Doughty.

The goal came with only 39.8 seconds left and capped a busy period that saw the Flames out-shoot their Pacific counterparts 10-8.

Gaudreau put the Flames back in front with an absolutely filthy short-side snipe at 6:45 of the second. With Quick anticipating the pass and leaning hard to his left, leaving an opening the size of a mouse hole over his right shoulder, No. 13 rifled a shot from the bottom of the circle to record his 97th point of the season.

 

Video: CGY@LAK: Gaudreau snipes top corner on Quick

 

From there, it was all Calgary.

"I thought we got better as the game went along," said head coach Bill Peters. "We had to build a game and we did that. I thought the guys who haven't played a lot on the backend got better each and every shift.

"Everyone found a way to contribute."

Bennett left the contest late in the period when Kurtis MacDermid delivered a massive, open-ice hit, felling the Flames forward with a blow that appeared to ring his bell.

Peters said that Bennett is "fine" and that he expects the forward to suit up in one of the final two games before the playoffs.

Neal made it a 4-2 game with a net-front tap-in off a Jankowski centering feed at the 13-second mark of the final frame, then found Ryan driving the blue paint with a tidy bit of sauce off the left circle.

And the Flames weren't done.

Mangiapane rifled a shot from the top of the circle past the glove-hand of Quick, before Jankowski cut hard to the net and scooped home a backhand to chase the struggling Kings netminder at 8:45.

"We want to be peaking at the right time," Jankowski said. "You don't just turn it on in playoff time. This is the time of year where you really ramp it up.

"For us, we want to be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs."

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