Andrew Mangiapane showed why was he deserving of that praise when the Flames icon visited the 'Dome last week, feasting on the Edmonton Oilers in the season's first instalment of the Battle of Alberta Friday, and turning the swanky surface of Rogers Place into His Yard.
The 23-year-old had a clutch first period, helping stake the Flames out to a crucial, 2-0 lead with an early tally, followed by a stunning assist on a mid-period silencer, en route to a convincing 5-1 win.
Mangiapane rounded out his night with an assist on Elias Lindholm's goal late in the second period, capping off a career-best, three-point night.
Elias Lindholm had a goal and an assist, TJ Brodie had a pair of helpers, and Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund scored singles for the Flames, who improve to 20-15-5 on the year, and are now one point up on the Oilers with a game in hand.
David Rittich was excellent in goal, stopping 28 of 29 in the victory.
The Flames got the start they were looking for, silencing the home crowd with the game's opening strike just 11 seconds into the contest.
With Tkachuk doing what he does best and making his presence felt on the forecheck, Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins turned the puck over behind his own net. Lindholm made the most of the opportunity, barrelling in and scooping up the free pill before feeding a wide-open Mangiapane with a beautiful centering pass.
No. 88 made no mistake from deep in the slot, slamming it past Mikko Koskinen for his eighth of the year.
How's that for a start?
Turns out, they were just getting warmed up.
Mangiapane returned the favour to one his linemates with an incredible solo effort to help give the visitors a commanding, two-goal edge at 11:39.
Mangiapane took the puck on his off wing, all the way from his own blueline to the bottom of the right circle, while leaning into and shielding the puck from Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. After winning the battle with one hand, he stopped up, dished off to Tkachuk between the hash marks, and after quickly dusting it off, No. 19 pumped it home from the lip of the blue paint to put the Flames up by a pair.
The Oilers trimmed the deficit with 5:34 to play in the period, as Nurse's long point shot was tipped home by Connor McDavid, making it a one-goal game once again, but only briefly.
Shots on goal favoured the Flames 11-10 after one.
The Flames wasted little time restoring their two-goal lead as Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan went to work off the rush. Gaudreau showed great speed and gained the zone, stopped up and delivered a beautiful crosser to Monahan in full flight on the opposite side. Monahan took one step and fired, beating Koskinen five-hole just 1:08 into the period.
Gaudreau - clearly feeling it - was dancing, and on a powerplay shortly thereafter, he rattled a shot off the crossbar, sending it high into the eighth row after it caromed with nary a sniff from the goaltender.
Lindholm padded the lead at 16:54, snapping a shot low, glove side after taking a drop pass from Mangiapane on the entry.
"Just doing the little things. Managing the puck - that's big - and knowing who you're out against. I'm playing my game, getting confidence each and every night, and I'm playing with two really good players right now, so if I get on the puck and get open, they'll find me."
"We wanted to come in here and play like we have on the road the last little bit and come out with a greasy win. I thought we did a good job of that. In the first half of the season, we played a lot of Eastern Conference teams and now we're starting to get into a stretch where we're playing a lot of divisional games and teams that are right there with us in the standings in the West. Everyone's saying that it was a 'statement game,' but I think we just wanted to come in here and play (well), score some goals, play good defence and come out with two points."
TKACHUK ON PASSING THE OILERS IN THE STANDINGS:
"We're not in a spot like a couple teams in the league where they're fully comfortable, points-wise, have enough to make the playoffs. I think we're third in the Pacific right now and that's not - we've got room for improvement. We started the year off not great. I think the window we have to look at right now is the 10 games we have left until that bye week and the all-star break. We have to put together a little run here going into that. When you come out of that break, it's a sprint to the finish until the end of the season. We're playing basically every other night for two months. It's important now to get going and to get some wins and roll from there. Nothing's better than when you're winning and everyone's playing well and you can roll."
"You always want to come out of the intermission and get one early. Were we expecting to get one short-handed? I'd say probably not. But it was a huge one for us to get, and it kind of put the dagger in them."
DAVID RITTICH ON HIS NIGHT:
"We came into each period and we scored right away, and that was huge for us. The guys did a really good job. They (the Oilers) didn't get too much. It wasn't that hard of a game, but I'm taking those two points and going home."
GEOFF WARD ON MANGIAPANE'S GREAT NIGHT:
"He had a big impact on the game tonight. You can see his confidence is growing on a daily basis, and it sure helps when you play with two players like Matthew and Elias - they're real solid, so Mangy can play to his strengths. I think, now, they're starting to find some good chemistry. The points weren't coming, but lately they have been."
"The comfort level is starting to show. He's such a smart player. He plays all three zones well. He reminds me of Patrice Bergeron an awful lot, to be honest with you, with the way he thinks. His game is pretty complete and he's able to do a lot of things offensively and defensively for us."
Hard to believe, but this was the first meeting of the season between the Flames and their bitter archrivals. But after waiting half of the 2019-20 campaign to get their first taste of the Battle of Alberta, the two teams are about to get a healthy dose of one another, with three of their remaining four games coming in the next 34 days. … Kudos to the Oilers' game presentation crew, led by manager of event presentation, Lindsey Gullett, for acknowledging the returns of Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot. The players were honoured with a video montage during the first TV timeout, and were greeted with a heaty show of appreciation from the Rogers Place faithful. In all, there were eight players in Friday's game that have worn the opposing sweater at some point during their careers. Lucic, Talbot and Tobias Rieder now don the Flaming C after a combined eight years in the Alberta capital, while former Flames James Neal, Mike Smith, Alex Chiasson, Kris Russell and Markus Granlund now represent the north in the Battle of Alberta.
Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:
Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Mikael Backlund Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube Sam Bennett - Tobias Rieder - Michael Frolik
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson
David Rittich Cam Talbot
Scratches:Zac Rinaldo, Mark Jankowski, Michael Stone
The Flames open a three-game homestand on Sunday as they host the Vancouver Canucks on Jarome Iginla Bobblehead Night! Be one of the first 3,500 fans in the building and you'll receive a complimentary Iggy bobblehead (click here for tickets). Following that, the Flames will entertain the Chicago Blackhawks on New Year's Eve, before finishing up the homestand and christening 2020 with a date against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Jan. 2.