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Al MacInnis-esque blast from Stone helps propel the Flames to victory in Anaheim

by TY PILSON @TyPilson /

When opportunity knocks, you open the door. 

Michael Stone did just that Sunday night in Anaheim.

Within spitting distance of the so-called Happiest Place on Earth, Stone couldn't possibly have been more excited to be back in the Flames lineup.

With just two games under his belt so far this campaign - road tilts against Dallas and Vegas last week - the veteran, like all players spending time watching from the press box, had to bide his time and wait for his chance.

That came Sunday when fellow blue-liner Oliver Kylington was sent down to Stockton, Stone drawing back in to play on the third pairing with TJ Brodie.

With one of the heaviest shots in the league, there's many that think Stone should unload that cannon more often. 

He did that early against the Ducks, making his presence felt with three big point blasts, along with some hefty hits.

And with his team down a goal in the first period and badly needing a shot in the arm - a bit of a morale booster - he delivered. 

His fourth big blast - from way out near the centre of the blueline - blew by a partially screened Gibson, top shelf, with 3:28 to play in the middle stanza.

It was Stone first's goal since March 24, 2018 when he tallied against the Sharks. 

And it helped propel the Flames to a much-needed 2-1 victory.

"It felt good to contribute," he said afterwards. "You get in there and get rewarded, it was nice."

Mikael Backlund finished off a beautiful two-on-one from Matthew Tkachuk in the third period for the other tally, Cam Talbot also having a stellar night in the pipes making 29 stops.

"I thought everyone dug in," head coach Bill Peters commented. "I thought we needed a response from the game we had last night and we found a way to do that."

The Flames talked about getting out to a quick start against the Kings Saturday at the Staples Centre.

That didn't happen.

The final result: a 4-1 loss that snapped their two-game winning streak.

If it's possible, then, for something to be doubly important, that quick start was deemed paramount by the players heading into Anaheim to face the Ducks and try and salvage some points from the quick back-to-back California road swing.

They came out and did that, generating some great chances in the opening 20 minutes combined with much stingier defensive play:

  • A lovely tic-tac-toe passing play from Tkachuk to Backlund to Frolik early on ended with the puck just out of the reach of No. 67, who was looking to tip it on the back door;
  • Next up, after a solid cycle in the offensive zone, Johnny Gaudreau found himself open beside the net, but couldn't get enough on a wobbling pass to smack the puck past the outstretched left pad of John Gibson;
  • Then Frolik went around his man and skated through the high crease all alone, going backhand-forehand but not able to raise the puck up and over Gibson's quick right pad;
  • Finally, the newly formed line of Tobias Rieder, Mark Jankowski and Alan Quine, who was called up from Stockton in the afternoon (and defenceman Oliver Kylington assigned back), had a stellar shift late in the frame, using their speed to create a pair of high-quality scoring chances.

Coming off a game where it seemed they spent half their time in the penalty box, the Flames were whistled just once in the first, with Jankowski sent off for tripping just past the midway point.

On the ensuing Ducks powerplay, Cam Talbot - who came on in relief of David Rittich and played the third period against the Kings - made his biggest stop of the first, coming across to get a piece of a Sam Steele one-timer that bounced off his catching glove and up his arm and over the net.

The Flames actually led 11-9 in shots at the end of the period. 

While they started slow in the first against the Kings, the second period was what ultimately doomed them against LA. Jeff Carter scored the first of three goals for the Kings in the frame just 18 second in, a dirty one that went off the skate of Mark Giordano.

Just 12 seconds into the second Sunday night, in what looked like much unwanted Deja Vu, the Ducks struck, though a much prettier tally with Josh Manson sending a drop pass to Hampus Lindholm who found Jakob Silfverberg on the left-wing side, already cocked for a one-timer blast that beat Talbot short-side high as he tried to come across the net.

From there, the second period was a bit of a track meet with great chances and more big saves at both ends of the ice.

Austin Czarnik just missed getting his stick on a tip attempt off a great feed from Travis Hamonic, who showed patience to suck a defender to him and not rush the play.

On an ensuing 3-on-2 the other way by the Ducks, Talbot came up huge with another stop at a pivotal point of the frame.

Gaudreau later would later thread a long-distance cross-ice pass through two Ducks defender and right onto the stick of Giordano, but he couldn't beat Gibson.

Then came the Stone-cold rocket.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Gibson didn't even see it coming.#CGYvsANA | #Flames


Then came the Chucky to Backs tally.

Tweet from @NHLFlames: The perfect passing play: Exhibit A.#CGYvsANA | #Flames



Sam Bennett got banged up in the loss to the Kings on Saturday night and did not return to the game. He didn't play last night, listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Of course, the team was already without forward Andrew Mangiapane , who did not travel with the team to California after being hurt in the team's win over the Flyers Thursday night.Few milestones of note in Sunday night's game: Milan Lucic played in his 900th career game, while Rasmus Andersson played in his 100th. Asked earlier in the day about the achievement, Lucic smiled and answered: "It's a lot of games, you know, excited to get the mark. As long as it's been it's felt like it's gone by real fast. A lot of good things have happened, some bad things - I like the way, personally, my game is going, so try to do what I can to make these next 100 my best hundred games before I get to 1,000." ... Speaking of Lucic, he's just two goals away from 200 in his career ... Former Calgary Hitmen star and current Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf surpassed Corey Perry (988) for the all-time franchise lead in games played with his 989th career NHL appearance Oct. 11 at Columbus ...  Anaheim and Calgary began a four-game season series Sunday. They meet again at the Honda Center Feb. 13 before two contests iat the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 17 (click for tickets) and March 25 (click here for tickets).



Here are the lines and D-pairings to start last night's game (starters in bold).


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Austin Czarnik

Alan Quine - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder


Mark Giordano - Rasmus Andersson

Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic

TJ Brodie - Michael Stone


Cam Talbot



The boys then return home for another Tuesday/Thursday homestand, welcoming The GR8 and the Caps first (click here for tickets), and then Barkov, Bobrovsky and the Panthers (click here for tickets). 

After that, it's off to Regina for the Heritage Classic tilt with the Jets (click here for tickets).

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