Wild win 3-0 on the road as fans boo fading Flames
CALGARY — The surging Minnesota Wild continue to ride the coattails of their red hot goaltending.
Filip Gustavsson had 31 saves Saturday night to backstop the Wild to a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Gustavsson improves to 6-0-2 in his last eight starts, having surrendered only 11 goals over that span and posting a sparkling .956 save percentage.
"He's been awesome,” said Matt Boldy, who along with linemate Joel Eriksson Ek paced the offence with a goal and an assist each. “He's been standing on top of his head and making saves when he has to, saves he should make and saves he shouldn't make. He's making it easy for us."
Gustavsson's best stop came midway through the third period when he stopped Tyler Toffoli on a short-handed breakaway to keep the score at 1-0.
"He came down. I think he had a penalty shot on me before. I thought he looked up a little bit and angled his stick like he was going to shoot. I just went down there and he shot right on my arm,” said Gustavsson, who improves to 17-8-3 on the season.
The Wild made it 2-0 at 13:49 on a weird play. Frederick Gaudreau's shot from the slot deflected high into the air and landed on top of the Flames' net before bouncing back off again into the crease where it was bunted out of the air by Marcus Foligno.
Boldy put the game on ice at 16:30, burying an Eriksson Ek rebound.
“I have to score, that's the bottom line,” said Toffoli, who leads the Flames with 25 goals. “It's been frustrating with the one-goal losses and not being able to find a way to keep ourselves in games. A game like tonight it was for the taking and, obviously, we let it slip.”
Minnesota (36-21-6) has won four games in a row and have points in nine straight (8-0-1). The Wild remain second in the Central Division, three points back of the Dallas Stars.
“It's a really important time of year. For us these games are real big,” said Eriksson Ek. “It's a tight race and we know that. Hopefully we can keep building on this."
The struggles continue for Calgary (27-23-13), which is winless in its last five (0-3-2).
The Flames' playoff hopes also continue to fade. They are now seven points back of the Winnipeg Jets, who occupy the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators have also moved one point ahead of Calgary and hold three games in hand.
“It was flat on our end from start to finish,” said Flames forward Milan Lucic. “At this point in the year, especially, you should be excited and have a lot of energy to play every single night. So that's on us as individuals and that's on us as a team.”
Things have been miserable on home ice lately where they're 1-5-1 in their last seven. In finishing 0-2-1 on its homestand, Calgary only mustered four goals on 114 shots. Boos cascaded down from the Saddledome crowd throughout the final three minutes.
“It's a passionate fan base and obviously it's tough for us,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson. “But you understand that we haven't been very good lately and if that's how they feel, everyone on this team's just got to look at ourselves in the mirror.”
Gustavsson ranks second in both goals-against average (1.99) and save percentage (. 933), trailing only Boston's Linus Ullmark in both categories.
Jacob Markstrom, who has struggled much of the season, turned in his second straight strong outing with 29 stops, only to once again not receive any offensive support. He made 32 stops in a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Thursday.
“It's two games in a row where we've got really good goaltending,” said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “Goaltending gave us a chance to win but very little run support for him, especially from our top guys.”
Winless in his last five, Markstrom's record falls to 15-17-8.
The only goal of the opening 40 minutes came on a double-deflection at 14:52 of the first.
Taking a pass from Jon Klinberg, Boldy's shot from the high slot was first deflected by Marcus Johansson and then changed course again off Eriksson Ek's stick.
The Flames lead the NHL in one-goal losses with a combined 24 between regulation time (11) and overtime (13). The Wild lead the NHL with 18 one-goal wins.
While Jon Klingberg made his Wild debut and Johansson played his second game, the last of the three trade deadline acquisitions for Minnesota was not in the lineup as Oskar Sundqvist has not yet joined the club. For the Flames, newly acquired Troy Stecher drew in on the third pairing with Nikita Zadorov. Nick Ritchie, acquired in the same trade with Arizona, did not play.
Wild: Meet Calgary again on Tuesday back home at Xcel Energy Center.
Flames: Kick off a two-game road trip on Monday in Dallas.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press