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RUNNING WILD

Elias Lindholm scores twice to lead Flames past Wild

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Give 'em the white-knuckle, one-goal games, the physical matchups, or the invigorating, high-scoring affairs that resemble the past.

Any which way, the Flames have an answer.

On Thursday, it was less a defensive gem and more of an exercise in patience, but it paid off all the same, with one name in particular standing out with an exceptional performance.

Walk With Elias, we shall.

Lindholm was a dominant force for the homeside, scoring the only two goals of the game while having one other disallowed, to lead the Flames to a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano had helpers on each Lindholm tally, while Mike Smith was excellent between the pipes, winning his fifth straight game with 31 saves to post the 38th shutout of his career.

With the two apples, Giordano passed Flames great Lanny McDonald for 11th spot on the franchise's all-time points list with 406.

"I didn't think we played all that well tonight, but we found a way to score," Lindholm said. "Minnesota played a good game. Smitty made some huge saves in some key moments, so we've got to thank him for this one."

Lindholm - who had the puck on the string from 7 o'clock on - opened the scoring for the Flames at the 50-second mark of the middle frame. Gaudreau stole the puck at the defensive blueline, leaving the normally dependable Ryan Suter in his wake before feeding the sniper on a 2-on-1.

No. 28 made no mistake off the rush, whipping it far side from the top of the right circle and beating Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock over the blocker.

He rounded out the scoring with another beauty off the rush early in the third, taking the Gaudreau feed in stride, opening up the goalie with a slick stick fake, and sliding it five-hole for No. 15 on the year.

Lindholm is now only two off his career high with more than half the season to play.

"On the first one, (Stalock) kind of slid out of the net.," he said. "The next time, I knew he'd be aggressive, so I tried to freeze him."

"It was nice to see it go in and get this win."

Johnny Hockey - the playmaker on his opposite flank - summed it up best:

"Skilled player. Smart player. You see it on that second goal. Highly skilled play.

"Great goal by him - great finish."

 Video: Flames blank Wild, 2-0, for fourth consecutive win

Like another Flames great, longtime captain Jarome Iginla, Lindholm has the rare talent of being most lethal on his natural wing.

It's that comfort that enables him to switch things up and catch goalies off guard, like he did on that second goal.

"He's been great," Peters said. "He gets it on and off his stick real quick. That was a powerplay goal in Columbus the other night. Great release. It ended up being the Tkachuk goal, but it was the release that created that.

"Tonight, again, he shot the puck well, played real well and was a big part of the penalty kill.

"I thought everyone dug in."

From the drop of the puck, it was clear the homeside was ready to play.

The Flames were all over the Wild in the front half of the opening period, recording four of the first five shots and putting two off the poles.

In the opening minute, Gaudreau took a breakaway feed from Lindholm and shimmied his way in alone, but Stalock made a calm stick save, steering the playmaker's backhand effort safely to the corner. Moments later, and with the momentum squarely in favour of the homeside, James Neal set up Andrew Mangiapane with a glorious backhand pass, but the rookie's one-time try rang off the crossbar.

Then, on a powerplay near the midway mark of the stanza, the Flames had no less than four magnificent chances in tight, but Stalock and his trusty iron backdrop kept the game scoreless.

Matthew Tkachuk's redirect of a Mark Giordano point shot was among those, plunking the bar over goalie's left shoulder and dropping dead in the blue paint. Gaudreau and Sean Monahan hurried to the scene and got two cracks each, but the Minnesota penalty killers collapsed in front, choking off the shooting lanes and allowing their netminder to recover and eventually smother the rebound.

Gaudreau was buzzing all night, and was a big part of Lindholm's hot hand.

"He's electric when he has (the puck) and he's very committed when he doesn't, and that's how we need everyone to play," Peters said.

Lindholm appeared to give the Flames a 1-0 lead midway through the first, wiring home a Gaudreau feed from the top of the right circle, but a review initiated by Wild coach Bruce Boudreau determined the play was offside upon entry.

But that did little to dampen Lindholm's spirits.

 

ONE-TIMERS:

Mikael Backlund was the recipient of a dubious hit by Matt Dumba in the final minute of the third period. Backlund went immediately to the dressing room, while Ryan Lomberg took matters into his own hands with a brief, but spirited dustup with the Minnesota blueliner. Dumba was not penalized on the play.

"I think it shows no respect for the player and for the game," Lindholm said. "They're down 2-0 and there's 40 seconds left. I thought he left his feet a little. I haven't seen the replay too much, but it was high hit. Hopefully Backs is OK, because we're going to need him."

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