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Tkachuk, Flames torch Coyotes in shootout

Tkachuk tallies Flames' lone goal and shootout winner

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Eighteen-year-old Matthew Tkachuk is putting together a strong bid to make the Calgary Flames out of training camp.

Tkachuk scored in regulation and had the shootout winner to help the Flames to a 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes in preseason action at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

Brian Elliott made 21 saves, and stopped all three skaters in the shootout in his first full start of the preseason for Calgary (3-3-0).

Christian Dvorak scored, and Mike Smith made 36 for Arizona (3-3-1).

Tkachuk, the No. 6 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, skated in and deked forehand-to-backhand before shooting by Smith's blocker in the top half of the third round of the shootout.

"The goal is to get better every single day," Tkachuk said. "If I'm fortunate enough to stay I just want to help this team win. Obviously, you want to stay. You want to be on this team. I just want to keep getting better every day. As long as I'm getting better every day there's no worries."

Elliott ended the game with a blocker save off Dylan Strome.

Smith's heroics pushed the game to a shootout.

He made six saves in overtime, including a pad save off Sam Bennett in the opening shift, and a blocker save on Michael Frolik in the slot at 1:06. He also shut down the Flames with Coyotes forward Laurent Dauphin serving a minor penalty for too many men on the ice.

Dvorak scored 6:12 into the game to put Arizona up 1-0. Off the rush, Christian Fischer's initial centering pass was blocked, but his second attempt was redirected by Dvorak past Elliott.

The lead lasted 29 seconds. On the power play, Tkachuk one-timed a pass from Bennett between Smith's legs to tie the game 1-1 at 6:41.

Tkachuk has two goals in four preseason games.

"There's no question … right from the moment he's got here he's played hard every shift, every game," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He's certainly making it hard. You can see the talent in Matthew. He's a real good kid. He's a tenacious worker. He's serious about the game. Obviously it comes through the bloodlines. He's making it real tough."

Bennett almost connected with Tkachuk again at 16:41. Tkachuk took a bank pass off the boards from Bennett and cut in on Smith, but he couldn't slip a backhand between the legs of the Coyotes goaltender.

Smith made seven saves, including one off Micheal Ferland in the slot, and Elliott made six saves to keep the game tied 1-1 through two periods.

"Every game, every practice you want to keep getting that feeling and keep getting that mid-season form feeling," Elliott said. "It's not easy to get. It's a lot of work. These guys are putting a lot of work in practice. It's showing out there on the ice."

Each goaltender was strong in the third, too. Elliott made four saves, including stops on Anthony DeAngelo, and Anthony Duclair from the slot, and Smith made 12 saves, including a glove save of Mikael Backlund's one-timer at 12:15.

Video: Post-Game Recap - Flames 2, Coyotes 1 (SO)

Goal of the Game: With Radim Vrbata in the penalty box for Arizona, Tkachuk dropped to one knee in the slot and one-timed a pass from Bennett between Smith's legs to tie the game 1-1. The goal, at 6:41 of the first period, came 29 seconds after Dvorak, Tkachuk's teammate with London of the Ontario Hockey League, put the Coyotes up 1-0.

Save of the Game: Strome feathered a backdoor pass that Jakob Chychrun one-timed, but Elliott got across in time to block it to keep the game tied 1-1 midway through the second period.

Unsung Moment of the Game: Shorthanded with 1:05 left in the first period, Dauphin forced a turnover in the neutral zone and tried to cut in on Elliott on a partial breakaway, but Tkachuk's backcheck negated the opportunity.

Highlight of the Game: On the power play late in the third, Bennett missed Troy Brouwer with a pass through the slot. The puck continued through to Dougie Hamilton, whose one-timer was targeted for the top corner but was stopped by Smith's blocker in a desperation save.

They said it: "My experience with the young players in this league trying to come in here and stay in the league … it really is a day-by-day thing. But every day, in saying that, he's passing tests day-after-day. It's going to make for a tough decision. We'll evaluate it to see where it is. We're still in exhibition season so we have some time. I've certainly liked the way he's played." - Gulutzan on the continued evaluation of Tkachuk.

"I don't think we've done one shootout drill in camp. Maybe we should start that. With young Matty there putting it home for us…that's a big win for us. We need to make this a tough barn to play in every night. We have to finish those tight games, those one-goal games, and games that go to the shootout." -Elliott on winning in the shootout.

"We didn't talk about it. We went to dinner last night…me, him and Fischer. It's good to see some of my best buddies. It's friends off. Once we got on the ice we really wanted to beat each other tonight." - Tkachuk on facing off against former teammates Dvorak, Fischer.

Need to Know: Tkachuk and Dvorak, and Flames goaltending prospect Tyler Parsons, won the Memorial Cup together in May. Tkachuk was also teammates with Fischer with the United States National Team Development Program in 2014-15.

What's Next: The Flames visit the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. MT; SN360, SN960).

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