Since returning on Nov. 25 from an upper body injury that sidelined the club's captain for four weeks, New Jersey has won six of seven with Hischier piling up eight points over that span (including four goals).
"I've been saying he kind of reminds me of (Anze Kopitar) when I was back in L.A., just not as big,” said former Flame Tyler Tofolli. “He just does everything right and does whatever it takes to win and help the team. It's amazing having him back in the lineup, healthy and playing the way he's playing."
The Devils secured a lasting lead at 12:31 of the second period on a controversial goal that snapped a 1-1 deadlock.
After Hischier mishandled the puck on a scoring chance, Flames forward Blake Coleman banked a clearing attempt off Bratt and into the net. However, seconds earlier, Wolf had been knocked off balance and sent spinning when Hischier slid into his pads.
“It's not rocket science. You've got to go to the net hard and good things happen,” Hischier said. “You have to simplify your game. That's what we've done the last couple games. We've got some lucky bounces but if you're not going there, you're not getting them."
Calgary coach Ryan Huska challenged for goalie interference, but the call stood with the explanation that it was the actions of Coleman on the backcheck, which sent Hischier into the netminder.
“The guys in the room have a lot of different views,” said Huska. “We didn't feel there was a push on our part for him to go into the goalie so that's why we challenged.”
New Jersey (14-10-1) took a 3-1 lead at 8:59 of the third when goaltender Dustin Wolf’s errant outlet pass was intercepted by Alexander Holtz, who fired a puck toward the front of the net where it was deflected by Timo Meier and then bounced in off the shin pad of Flames forward Dillon Dube.
"It's growing,” said Hischier, asked about his team's confidence right now. “We're trying to elevate our game. I think we've done it so far but I think there's still another step in our game, especially to bring together a 60-minute hockey game.”
”In the second, I thought we got away from it. Still a tight game, but I thought we made it hard on ourselves,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “ We weren't playing as fast and we weren't as efficient getting in on the forecheck.”
Devils netminder Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves for the victory to improve to 10-5-0.
With Dan Vladar suffering from the flu, Wolf made consecutive starts for the first time in his career. The rookie had 26 stops to fall to 1-2-0.
Calgary's No. 1 goaltender Jacob Markstrom is on injured reserve after breaking his finger a week ago.
The Flames lead the NHL with five wins when trailing after two periods and they made it a one-goal game again on Kadri’s marker at 14:46, but Hischier’s empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining put the game away.
“Second (goal) was a really tough break. Even the third goal, it bounced off a couple guys and went in. A couple of really tough breaks, those two goals, but at the end of the day, we let them back in after playing so well in the first,” Backlund said.
In an opening period in which Calgary outshot the visitors 13-7, they broke a scoreless tie with 19 seconds left while short-handed. Sharangovich corralled a bouncing puck and moved in on breakaway, scoring on a beautiful backhand deke.
“We finally got the start we're looking for,” said Coleman. “I don't think we could have played a better first period, I thought we controlled the play. To only come out of it with a 1-0 lead, it probably should have been more.”
It was the fifth short-handed goal of the season for Calgary and second for Sharangovich, who was acquired from New Jersey in a trade last off-season that sent Toffoli to the Devils.
EARLY SCORING WOES
Flames scored first for the first time in nine games. It’s just the 10th time Calgary has scored the opening goal. Entering the game, only three teams had scored first less often with the worst being New Jersey, who has only done it seven times.
POWER PLAY OUTAGE
Flames did not receive a power play and are now 3-for-45 over their last 16 games. Calgary, which entered the game ranked 28th with the man advantage, has only 10 power-play goals on the season and they've come from 10 different players.
Calgary D Rasmus Andersson played in his 400th NHL game. Drafted by the Flames in the second round in 2015, Andersson has 175 career points (31 goals, 144 assists). The 27-year-old leads the club in average ice time (23:53).
Devils: Wrap up their four-game road trip in Edmonton on Sunday.
Flames: Begin a three-game road trip on Monday in Colorado.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press