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Flames say there's work to be done in their game but battling back for victory important step

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

More third-period plot twists than you'll find in an Agatha Christie whodunit.

More insides-afire heartburn than an all-you-can-stand repast of Sichuan Hot-Pot.

"That," confessed Matthew Tkachuk, "was a stressful game."

A blood-pressure popper, for sure.

"Obviously a big two points," summed up the very excellent Tkachuk, still trying to wrap his head around a wildly compelling, if hardly textbook clinical 6-5 shootout win over the visiting Florida Panthers, "but we don't want to get comfortable in games like that.

"We have a two-goal lead, you have to put it away. We've got to tighten it up.

"It seemed like when it was 4-2 they were pressing and we had no answer. Maybe a little sloppy with our puck play and stuff like that.

"But we got the win. Which is all that matters, I guess."

In the final analysis, a crucial tying Sam Bennett strike at 17:17 of the third to keep their pulse alive, Tkachuk's panache around the net - he scored Goals 3 and 4 on the season and calmly slotted the shootout winner behind Panthers' stopper Sergei Bobrovsky - along with a pair of SO stops by David Rittich was enough to see them through.  

"There was definitely a lot going on," commented Flames' boss Bill Peters. "I thought we were in control there in the third, had a good powerplay, had some zone time. Gio made it 4-2, so I thought we were in a good spot. They pushed and we didn't handle it very well. Coverage broke down a little bit.

"From that point on, you've got manage the puck properly and have good situational awareness.

"Then a huge goal by Benny to get us into overtime.

"It's a resilient win. We'll take the two points, for sure."


Video: "That's a big two points."


Goals by Tkachuk and Giordano within the first five-and-a-half minutes of the third period seemed to have broken a 2-2 game wide open but the Panthers refused to be fitted for a toe-tag and scrapped back to assume a shock lead, propelled forward by the dynamic, four-assist Alexander Barkov.

Bennett's equalizer, though, the second of the night to carom behind Bobrovsky off Florida D-man Aaron Ekblad (first one off a skate, this off a shoulder), provided the Flames with a lifeline.

Tkachuk very nearly ended things in OT with a hat-trick move, sent in alone on a nifty pass by T.J. Brodie. But Bobrovsky produced a luminous stop, anchoring his right skate against the post to squeeze Tkachuk's 5-hole attempt and keep the puck from crossing the goal line.

"In big games, you know Chucky's going to be there," said Giordano. "You always want the puck on his stick in high-pressure situations.

"He makes plays under pressure. That's what makes him so good. No different tonight."


Video: "Pretty resilient by our group to fight back."


The Flames now travel to Regina for Saturday's Heritage Classic versus Winnipeg before heading out for another four on the road.
Issues, they realize, need to be addressed.

"We're just not sharp enough right now, in the neutral zone or the D-zone,'' conceded Giordano. "There are spurts again but that's not the way to play to win, a 6-5 game.

"I thought we were resilient, which was nice."

"We'll take the two points now but there's definitely some things we'll have to go over again.

"I just think we want to get to our game. There's spurts of it but there are times where it's too loose out there, to be honest. It feels too much like a turnover-fest.

"At 4-2 in the third, you're in a good spot. You obviously don't like to give them the three but it was pretty resilient by our group.

"We've got to be better defensively, all of us. I'm sure we'll get some video on that, that we'll need to clean up."

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