Solid Markstrom helps Flames burn Senators 5-1
CALGARY — Home ice hasn't been much of an advantage of late, but the Calgary Flames hope their decisive win on Sunday night will turn things around.
Elias Lindholm scored the game-winner and added an assist and Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves to lead the Flames to a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, snapping their five-game winless skid at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Calgary came into the game having scored just eight goals over that 0-4-1 stretch, including just two in the last three games.
“Big win for us. We've got to collect points as much as we can here down the stretch,” said Nazem Kadri, who had a pair of primary assists. “Overall, I think just the whole 60 minutes was pretty positive for us. We made a lot of great plays and hopefully it's something we can build on.”
Kadri and linemate Jonathan Huberdeau, both in a slump, combined for a pair of goals.
“We're supposed to produce. It's going to help the team if we do,” said Huberdeau, who had a goal and an assist. “If we get on the scoresheet, we can get some wins. So until the end of the year, it's going to be a big push for us.”
Down 2-0 after the first period, Ottawa cut the deficit in half at 5:55 of the second capitalizing on a misplay between Markstrom and Mikael Backlund.
From behind the net, Markstrom passed the puck to Backlund, who in attempting to shoot the puck around the back of the net hit Markstrom's pad instead. The puck bounced right to Stutzle who scored his 32nd goal into the vacated net.
It took only 68 seconds for Calgary to restore its two-goal cushion with Kadri firing a rising shot toward the net that Huberdeau deflected out of mid-air and past Kevin Mandolese.
“That's a big goal. That goal maybe changed the momentum, they might have come back,” said Huberdeau.
Rasmus Andersson also had a goal and an assist for Calgary (30-24-13), while Noah Hanifin and Trevor Lewis also scored. Backlund chipped in with two assists.
The Flames remain six points back of the Winnipeg Jets — who won 3-2 in Tampa Bay on Sunday — for the second wild-card playoff berth in the NHL's Western Conference.
“We just gotta keep going,” said Andersson. “We've got to focus on ourselves and get every point we can get. There's 15 games left and we've got to battle night in and night out. This is a game we can build off.”
Ottawa (33-29-4), which has lost three of its first four on a five-game road trip, are six points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, which is occupied by the New York Islanders.
“We didn't play our worst game but everything didn't go the way we wanted it to,” said Stutzle. “The last two games aren't the way we want to play. You just have to turn the page. But it's definitely really frustrating right now."
Adding to the challenge for Ottawa is they also have to pass the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, who are between them and the Islanders.
“We have a ton of belief in our group,” said Senators defenceman Travis Hamonic. “We've been resilient all season. We've played through a ton of adversity. We've clawed our way back into the race and into the conversation when everyone left us on the side of the road a couple months ago.”
Markstrom was excellent in his sixth straight start to improve to 18-18-8.
Mandolese, in his third career start, finished with 34 stops. He falls to 1-2-0. The 22-year-old is up with the NHL club due to injuries to Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg.
"It's 2-0 and you're trailing in the game. We score, we get a gift, and then the next shift they score,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “The biggest shifts are the ones after goals, end of periods. Today we just weren't sharp enough."
The Flames went ahead 4-1 at 13:08 of the second when Huberdeau and Kadri combined to set up Hanifin jumping up into the rush and he zipped a perfect shot inside the far goalpost.
It was an eventful first period in which the Flames had a goal called back on an offside review and hit three goalposts or crossbars.
But they still took a 2-0 lead on Andersson's short-handed goal and Lindholm's power-play marker.
Markstrom kept it 2-0 making two clutch saves a minute apart robbing Julien Gauthier on a breakaway and Drake Batherson when he also got in alone, both chances coming off of Flames turnovers.
“When he plays like he did tonight, he's a top three goalie in the league and we're gonna need him to be that good every night,” Andersson said.
Ottawa lost left-winger Mathieu Joseph to a lower-body injury in the first period. Going down awkwardly on a play in which Toffoli was penalized for cross-checking, Joseph, in obvious pain, punched the boards immediately after before being helped off the ice.
The visitors also lost defenceman Thomas Chabot early in the third.
LINDHOLM'S MILESTONE GOAL
Lindholm's 19th goal of the season was the 200th of his career with 136 coming as a member of the Flames. He's fourth for most goals by a Swede in franchise history behind Kent Nilsson (229), Hakan Loob (193) and Backlund (180).
The Senators went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and have now gone six games without a power-play goal, going 0-for-20 over that span.
Senators: Wrap up their five-game road in Edmonton on Tuesday.
Flames: Open up a two-game road trip in Arizona on Tuesday. They then play the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press