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OFFENCE FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS VS. WILD

The Flames are looking to use Wednesday's win as a springboard into their three-game road swing

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

Western pacesetters. The second-highest point total in the entire loop. Among the most miserly in terms of team defence.

Winners of nine of their last 11.

Top road record. Unbeaten in regulation on their travels since Nov. 29th.

So Wednesday night's test, that invariably tricky coming-off-the-All-Star-break assignment, always shaped up as a litmus test, a polygraph hook-up, for the Calgary Flames.

Maybe not a statement game, exactly.

But a declaration of intentions, another tantalizing indication of latent possibilities.

"It's huge,'' acknowledged two-goal Sean Monahan, following a resounding 5-1 dispatching of the very in-form Minnesota Wild at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "Staring with Moose at the back. I think everybody stepped up, played their roles.

"A big win for us."

The Flames parlayed a quick start, the timely early goaltending from Brian Elliott that Monahan mentioned and No. 23's 17th and 18th strikes into a second straight win, rebounding nicely from that ugly four-game losing skid.

True enough, the Wild were on the business end of back-to-back nights, having dusted the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 up north on Tuesday. But ace Devan Dubnyk - 27 wins, a 1.88 GAA and .936 save percentage - was back between the pipes to aid the cause.

"They're a really good team for a reason,'' emphasized defenceman Deryk Engelland of the Minnesota Wild. "They played (Tuesday) night, we knew that. So we had to come out fast."

Video: Engelland on victory over the red hot Wild

Blowing apart a customarily tight game with the Wild - 2-1 advantage Calgary - the Flames hit for three in the third period.

Monahan's second of the evening, a needle-threader from the left face-off dot with Troy Brouwer blocking Dubnyk's view, established a two-goal advantage via the power play at 6:19.

They put the outcome on ice in short order with Engelland's second of the year, courtesy a fine face-off win from Matt Stajan, and then a Micheal Ferland tally.

For the Wild, an unfamiliar experience of late.

"It's something we haven't done in a long time,'' said Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau. "If you don't play well in front of your goal, you give them opportunities and looks, they're going to score.

"Once they got the (third goal) it sort of emptied the tank of everybody and we didn't have much left."

Monahan played a major role in siphoning that tank. He now has eight goals in his most recent nine starts.

"You know, I listened to an interview with Eric Staal,'' replied Flames' boss Glen Gulutzan, asked about the centreman's torrid stretch, "and he said it doesn't matter how many years you play in the league or what type of player you are, confidence is a big thing.

"I had a talk with Sean not too long ago and he said 'I'm better in the second half.' He's gotten some good looks, gotten some goals and has some confidence.

"I think that's the biggest difference. We're really trying to push that in our group right now.

"You hear the players talk about it all the time. We can't discount it as coaches."

Video: Gulutzan on the Flames' 5-1 win over the Wild

The Minnesotans thought they had whittled their deficit in half just past the midway mark of the second period, via Zach Parise.

In the build-up, Elliott produced a sharp close-in save, using his right toe to prod a Parise try away. The plucky Parise eventually did ram the puck past Elliott.

Incidental contact with the Flames goaltender, however, had been ruled on the ice and the strike was chalked off.

Undeterred, the Wild continued to press forward and were rewarded only a minute and a half later.

The goal began with Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman's shot from the right point being blocked by an onrushing Jason Zucker. 

Compounding the trouble, Wideman then stumbled, allowing Mikael Granlund and Zucker, hobbling but still mighty game to re-join the fray, to storm out 2-on-1.

Granlund cooly waited the lone surviving defenceman, TJ Brodie, down, then slid a backhand pass across to an unattended Zucker to convert.

Zucker's goal came after the locals had parlayed a strong opening nine minutes into a 2-0 lead.

First came Alex Chiasson's first goal in 11 starts, a timely deflection as he cruised in front, Sam Bennett with the arrangement.

Then, the predatory Monahan, coming late to arrive en scene as Johnny Gaudreau's nimble deflection was spit back by Dubnyk, cashed his 17th of the season at 8:09.

The Flames now head out east for three - to New Jersey, New York and Pittsburgh - before beginning a rare four-day break.

"We've got another three tough games coming up,'' reminded Elliott. "Three tough buildings.

"Putting away these two points is really what we wanted to do heading out."

They'd no doubt take a carbon-copy, a Xeroxed replica, of Wednesday's performance in all three of those tests.

"I think,'' offered Gulutzan, "that we're capable of lots of things if we stick with it and we believe in ourselves.

"I think what's growing in that locker room is the belief that if we stick to the game plan, play a certain way, we have enough skill to get us points every night.

"We've should grow from this game and now we've got to do it on the road against some other good teams."

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