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Lindholm scores twice and Rittich makes 26 saves as the Flames grind out a 3-1 win over the Sens

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

From the players, to the brass, to the fans in the stands, the Flames - to a man - needed that result.

A feel-good story to reset and rally around.

In what became one of the most difficult months in franchise history - beginning with the TJ Brodie medical scare a few weeks ago - finishing it off with a win only seemed right.

It didn't matter how.

It just mattered that they did.


Video: Brendan Parker wraps up tonight's win


Elias Lindholm scored twice including an empty-netter late in the third period, Dillon Dube had the other, and David Rittich made 26 saves to give the Flames a 3-1 victory on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

With the win, the Flames are 3-0-1 in their last four games, improving their overall record to 13-12-4.

"The talk, the main focus from our team over the past few days is that we've gotten seven of the last eight points here," said Milan Lucic, who was instrumental in the win. "We want to get that good feeling again - and how you get that good feeling again is by working hard, playing good defence, and I thought our defensive game was really good tonight.

"Everyone's been through a lot, emotionally, lately here. When you're on the ice, it's like that Happy Gilmore 'Happy Place'-type of thing. You're not really thinking about anything other than when you were a kid playing the game of hockey. When you work hard and get the result, there's no better feeling, so we've got to keep that going."

The Flames, who had a significant territorial edge in the period, finally opened the scoring at 18:56 of the first. Lucic did some nice work on the draw to the right of Marcus Hogberg, tying up the stick of Artem Anisimov and winning it clean on the forehand. The bouncing puck went straight to Anthony Duclair, but he fumbled it in his feet, allowing Dube to pounce, grab the loose puck and make a terrific play - skate to stick - before swatting it home on the backhand.

There was, as you would imagine, some debate in the press box about whether or not Lucic actually won the draw, or if it was Anisimov who got the better of the big man in that instance, but in our estimation, the tie goes to the runner based on the fuzzy definition of 'possession.'

Either way, it was 1-0 Flames - and rightfully so after tilting the ice thanks in large part to the work of their 6-foot-3, 231-lb. pitbull.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Dubs, making 'em pay.#OTTvsCGY | #Flames


The Flames trailed the Sens 9-8 on the shot clock, but out-chanced their Canadian counterparts 6-3 in high-danger areas.

In a sloppy middle frame, the Sens had the best opportunity to ring one up on the scoreboard as they took off on a partial 2-on-1. But the short-handed chance went for naught, as Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano dashed back into the play and disrupted the passer - Connor Brown - enough to nullify the strike.

The Flames, though, had a much better third and nearly opened up a two-goal lead midway through when Noah Hanifin uncorked a slapper on the stick-less Hogberg from the high slot, but the rookie 'tender came up with an unbelievable glove save to keep it a one-goal game.

In a game with only a few quality chances to speak of, that save proved critical.

Ottawa's leading goal-getter, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, evened the score at 14:49 as he took the puck in off the rush and fired a shot from the right circle, fooling Rittich over the shoulder to make it a 1-1 game.

But only briefly.

Lindholm put the Flames back in front only 1:01 later, scooping up a loose puck, dancing around Ron Hainsey with a slick, inside-out move at the far circle, and picking the short-side corner on Hogberg.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: 1���3��� goals for @lindholmelias 🔥#OTTvsCGY | #Flames


Lindholm then potted his team-leading 14th into the empty net with 1:34 to play to ice a 3-1 Flames victory.


Video: "The mood on the bench has been real, real good."


"That's the biggest thing we've noticed over the last couple of games, was how tight we were defensively," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "It was better than it has been.

"Good teams and winning teams, they know how to manage games. Even on nights when you're not having your best effort, defensively and away from the puck, you're still good and you find a way to keep yourself in the game and a lot of times, win the game. For us, we reinforce the progress that we've made because defence needs to be there. In this league, if you want to win, you've got to be good away from the puck.

"If you're not good defensively, you have no chance in this league."


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Live from Calgary, it's Saturday Night!



Ward on the Flames' defensive structure:

"I thought we were tracking it really well, allowing our forwards to stand up behind it. I thought the guys did a good job, when they didn't have anything in front, to get the puck behind them and go to work. I thought we did a really good job of keeping the puck to the outside for most of the night. ... When you've got bodies around the puck, it's easier, too. You're not reaching to regain control, you're not reaching with your stick to make a last-gasp effort to get in front of him and do something. The fact that we had more guys around the puck tonight, supported it well, we didn't have to reach or pull or find ourselves in situations where you often get those penalties."

Lucic on getting closer to scoring his first goal:

"I don't know how you can get any closer. It's easy to get frustrated, easy to get down, easy to smash sticks and that type of stuff. But I went through that and that didn't work, so I'm just trying to do anything I can to score a goal here. I know the fans would love to see it - I appreciate them 'Loo'-ing me out there. I would love to get one for my teammates, and for them, as well."


Video: "It's something we can build off"


Lucic on the play of his line with Dube and Derek Ryan:

"We're creating a lot of chances. We got that first one tonight, which is huge. ... I feel like it's just a matter of time where we're able to pot more than just one a night. But our main focus needs to be on what we're doing to create those chances and that's helping our team play the right way."

Dube on learning from Lucic:

"It's awesome playing with a guy like that. It gives you a lot of confidence and just learning from him, because he's done everything you can in the league. It's awesome to be around him."



Sean Monahan dressed for his 500th NHL game tonight. The 25-year-old made his big-league debut back on Oct. 3, 2013, notching his first-career point (an assist) in that tilt. Since then, Monahan has scored 178 goals and 383 points, the 16th most points in Flames franchise history. … Saturday's victory was the 1,000th home-ice win in franchise history. ... Lucic was named the game's second star after posting an assist, two shots (on five attempts), one hit, one block, and a plus-one rating in 14:39 of ice time. "He's playing really well," Ward said. "He's getting in on the forecheck, winning pucks. ... He's not getting rewarded with goals right now, but he's getting chances because he's playing so well away from the puck and playing hard. Eventually, they're going to drop for him. Everyone's going to be real happy. Not only the guys on the bench, but it seems like the fans are dying for him to get one. It'll come at some point, but he's doing an awful lot of things to get the chances. He's playing well right now and we like the game he's putting out there right now. I've got nothing but good things to say about his game right now."



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Saturday's game:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Tobias Rieder - Mark Jankowski - Michael Frolik


Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Michael Stone - Rasmus Andersson


David Rittich


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Saturday night starters!#OTTvsCGY | #Flames | @Schneiders



The Flames get a few days to recharge before continuing a three-game homestand on Thursday, Dec. 5 against the Buffalo Sabres (click here for tickets). The staycation will then wrap up next Saturday as Drew Doughty and the LA Kings pay a visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome, before the Flames hit the road for a pair.

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