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RIDING THE WAVE

Monahan shines, Rittich stands tall as Flames blank Blue Jackets for second straight W

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

As thrilling a victory as Thursday's was, a key question lingered above the emotion and paralyzing delirium.

Just what can a win like that do for a team finding its identity?

"We'll find out," said a candid Bill Peters following that hysterical quest back from a three-goal deficit.

 

Video: Brendan Parker recaps the win over Columbus

 

Well…

A solid, wire-to-wire showing on Saturday in The Buckeye State went a long way to answering that.

The Music City Mayhem still fresh in their minds, the Flames went out and took care of business with one of their most complete efforts of the young season.

The work ethic was there.

The battle level was high.

They possessed the puck, made plays, and showed confidence in the game plan.

And in the process, they didn't deviate.

Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk supplied the offence, while David Rittich was perfect in his 13th appearance of the season, making 43 saves and tying a franchise record for the most saves in a shutout, in a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Flames opened the scoring at 3:45 of the first, with Monahan snapping a career-long, 13-game goalless drought with a strong shot from the slot. Johnny Gaudreau made a great play along the half wall, knocking down Joonas Korpisalo's clearing attempt out of midair and feeding Elias Lindholm in the process. Lindholm then spotted Monahan alone in the slot, and No. 23 made no mistake, handcuffing the netminder with a bullet a foot off the ice.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: 💥#CGYvsCBJ | #Flames pic.twitter.com/BZIWCliFIu

 

Shots on goal were even at nine apiece after one, but the Flames carried the play offensively (60% Corsi) and the better of the scoring chances (9-5).

Things heated up in the second when Jackets rookie and Ohio native Kole Sherwood delivered a late jab to Rittich's left pad well after the puck was blown dead. It immediately drew a crowd, with 6-foot-3, 231-lb. Milan Lucic bowling his way to the offender and offering a stiff right to the chops in response.

Lucic was given a penalty for his efforts, but the Flames came up with a big key to keep the visitors in front.

Huge.

Moments later, the Flames opened up a two-goal lead, with Bennett picking up his third of the year and first in four games.

Derek Ryan - who had a great look on the aforementioned PK - lugged the puck up ice on a partial break, but was illegally hounded by a pair of defenders and was unable to get a clean shot off. But, with speed at the bottom of the right circle, he leaned hard on the brakes and made an incredible, across-the-grain feed to a trailing Bennett, who cleaned up on the backhand at 8:21.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: Another angle on Benny's goal 🚨#CGYvsCBJ | #Flames pic.twitter.com/fvk8kTGSPI

 

Rittich, meanwhile, wasn't overly busy, but was excellent when called upon.

Late in the second, a loose puck dropped at the side of the net, and it appeared that Oliver Bjorkstrand had all kinds of net to shoot at, but he was unable to bring the puck from his backhand to his forehand quick enough, allowing the puck-stopper to scramble across and snare the stray pill with the palm of his blocker hand.

The Jackets were definitely showing a bit of life late in the frame, out-shooting the Flames 5-1 in the final 3:39, but it was largely the powerplay aiding that push.

Shots favoured the homeside 27-19 through two.

The Jackets had the edge with plenty of zone time in the third, peppering Rittich with XX shots, but Big Save Dave kept the cannon on mute with a number of acrobatic stops - none better than his beauty with the left pad, sliding across to rob Gustav Nyquist on the one-timer after the marksman took a wide-side feed from Vladislav Gavrikov.

That set the table for Tkachuk to strike into the empty net with 2:39 to play, giving him five games in his last five games.

 

Video: "I thought the guys had some good jump."

 

THEY SAID IT:

Bill Peters on carry-over from Thursday:

"I thought we made more plays. I thought our D were involved, I thought we had some 4-on-2's and were a little more dangerous off the rush, especially in the first 40, 45 minutes maybe. That's the way we have to play. We've got to have our D involved, and make sure we're looking to make plays instead of just getting it out and, 'Here they come again...'"

Peters on Rittich's performance:

"Everyone has confidence in Ritter. He's a good teammate, plays hard in front of him, and when he's dialled in like that ... he continues to settle in and get more and more confident as he goes."

Peters on Monahan's big goal:

"Good for him. And, you know, that line looks like it's back. I thought the guys had some good jump and they got rewarded. We'll continue to work away and continue to improve, but it's going in the right direction for sure."

Monahan on snapping goal drought:

"Whenever you score, it's obviously a good feeling. But that was one I needed, to get our team on the board and take the lead early in the game was big."

Bennett on his goal/great play by Ryan:

"I was kind of shocked at how much open net I had. I wanted to make sure I put it in on my backhand. Sometimes with a spinning puck it can be tough, but that was a great play by Doc."

 

ONE-TIMERS:

With his first-period goal, Monahan tied Tom Lysiak for the fourth-most career even-strength goals by a centre in franchise history with 123 (Most: 173 - Joe Nieuwendyk). … Elias Lindholm's nine goals in the opening month of the season are the most since Valeri Bure's 10 tallies in October of 1999. The 24-year-old forward leads the Flames in goals so far this season and has a total of 12 points (9G, 3A) in 15 games. With a pair of helpers tonight, he extended his personal point streak to six games. ... Rittich's 43-save effort tied him with Mike Smith (who did it twice) for the most saves in a shutout by a Calgary goalie in franchise history. In the Atlanta/Calgary combined record books, Dan Bouchard holds the all-time ceiling with 46 saves on Dec. 13, 1972. He also recorded a 45-save shutout on Apr. 2, 1975.

 

Video: "We started like we ended the game in Nashville."

 

THE LINEUP:

Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Saturday's game (starters in bold):

FORWARDS

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic - Mark Jankowski - Alan Quine

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

GOALTENDER

David Rittich

 

UP NEXT:

The longest road trip of the season wraps up tomorrow when the Flames face the Washington Capitals at 5 p.m. MT (TV: Sportsnet; Radio: Sportsnet 960 THE FAN). The team will then head home, get the day off Monday, and return to the sheet to begin a four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes in the annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night (click here for tickets).

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