He is so proud and he is so competitive that you push for him. He always gives you a chance to win. He gets in net, he competes hard, he’s tracking the puck well. - Bob Hartley on Joni Ortio
PITTSBURGH, PA -- It has been a long year for Joni Ortio.
Until Saturday afternoon's 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Calgary Flames netminder's last win came over a full calendar year back, on Jan. 19, 2015 when he stopped 33 of 34 shots the LA Kings sent at him at the Staples Center.
This year, he has made 10 appearances in net and despite his best efforts, hadn't been able to pick up a win until the Flames were able to get four past Marc-Andre Fleury at Consol Energy Center and snap a seven-game skid.
Ortio made 29 saves on 31 shots on Saturday, posting a .935 save percentage and holding off a desperate Penguins squad who rifled 17 shots at him in the third period in their attempt to claw their back way into the game.
"It’s big for me but it’s big for our team, too," he said afterwards. "Lately we’ve been playing well, we just haven’t been rewarded for that and I think every guy in this locker room is deserving of that [win]."
The game didn't get off to the start Ortio would have liked, with an awkward bounce off the back boards rebounding off his pads and into the back of the net just 30 seconds into the contest, but the team were able to respond right away.
A Sam Bennett pass hit Joe Colborne and was deflected past Fleury at the 1:58 mark of the first period.
"It was just a crazy bounce, off a blocked shot, off the glass and then I think it went off me too," Ortio said. "It was just a crazy bounce so put that behind you and good thing we scored about a minute later to make it 1-1."
That resilience they showed in the opening stanza remained firmly in place as the game wore on. Sidney Crosby made it a 2-1 game at 5:24 of the second frame but Mark Giordano tied the game tied the game just under two minutes later with his 16th goal of the season.
Mikael Backlund netted the go-head goal later on in the period and the Flames didn't look back.
"It shows the character we have in this room," Ortio stated. "The season hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to but the guys are battling. That’s a team effort, that’s the definition of a team win. Credit goes to the guys that battling hard for 60 minutes and getting the win."
Given the Penguins precarious playoff situation, sitting in the second Eastern Conference wildcard spot with plenty of teams chasing them prior to Saturday's game, the Flames knew Pittsburgh wouldn't go quietly after giving up the lead.
Colborne was particularly impressed with how poised Ortio looked in the second half of the game, during the Penguins frenzied press.
"You’ve got to give credit to Orts, that was an incredible effort by him. Playing these guys, you know they are going to get some chances, and some quality chances and he shut the door," Colborne said.
"We have so much confidence in Orts right now and it's fun to see him coming out and playing the way he has."
With a big six-game homestand ahead of them, Ortio will likely get his fair share of time in the blue paint. In his last five games, he has allowed two goals in four of those contests, made 139 saves on 152 shots, and posted a .914 save percentage during that stretch.
"He is so proud and he is so competitive that you push for him," Bob Hartley noted. "He always gives you a chance to win. He gets in net, he competes hard, he’s tracking the puck well."