Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jacob Markstrom (and the Calgary Flames’ penalty kill) declawed the Florida Panthers
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
The Calgary Flames entered Monday night’s game against the Florida Panthers as one of six teams in the National Hockey League yet to register a shutout in the 2023-24 season. They didn’t quite blank the Panthers, but they kept the visitors off the score sheet at even strength en route to a 3-1 home victory.
Credit for the two points should go to goaltender Jacob Markstrom, making 33 saves in his return to action after missing two weeks with a fractured finger, and the club’s penalty kill, which scored twice in the third period to cement the victory.
Following the game, Flames head coach Ryan Huska praised his club’s netminder.
“When he’s fresh, he’s really good,” said Huska. “And I feel like he’s been that way for almost every game he’s played for us this year. But tonight, he was different. He was different this morning and he gave that confidence to the group in front of him that he was going to make the saves.”
Asked following the game if there was any point where he felt like he was back and feeling good, Markstrom quipped, “Yeah, this morning.”
The only goal the Panthers scored was on a late first period power play, where Sam Reinhart jammed in a rebound after Markstrom made the initial save. But aside from that, Markstrom was sterling, stopping 24 of 24 at even strength and nine of 10 on special teams. Markstrom’s many big saves were complimented by a Flames team that was credited with a combined 28 shot blocks – including 10 from Chris Tanev in his return to the lineup from an injury, the most blocks by player in a single game league-wide in 14 months.
“We didn’t play well at all in the second,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “If it wasn’t for Marky we would’ve been down. But tie game going into the third, and we find a way to win. So big game from everyone.”
Backlund put the Flames up with a shorthanded goal 3:31 into the third period, while Blake Coleman added another shorthanded goal in the waning minutes of the game after he was fouled shooting on an empty net. The two goals from the penalty kill was a season-high for the Flames – the first time since Dec. 29, 2018 that they’ve scored multiple shorthanded goals in a game.
The Flames are now tied with the St. Louis Blues for the NHL lead with eight shorthanded goals. Huska offered his observation about why his team’s killers can be so dangerous offensively.
“Honestly I think it’s the way power plays are nowadays,” said Huska. “Often times there’s a lot of motion. Almost every time there’s one defenceman on the ice, and you get four guys deep a fair bit. So if there’s a missed net or a missed shot, I think our guys are… there’s a fine line between cheating and making smart plays, and I think for the most part they’ve made smart decisions as to when to try to generate offence. But I think that’s a big reason why; if there’s a missed play, someone’s out of position somewhere, so we have some guys that can skate and read the play well.”
On the other hand, the Flames’ power play continues to have challenges. In 8:39 of power play time, the Flames managed just two shots – Natural Stat Trick credited them with four scoring chances and zero high-danger scoring chances. (The Panthers’ penalty killers matched the Flames’ power play in shots on net.) In 6:45 of five-on-four time, Florida was credited with five shots, seven scoring chances and two high-danger chances – and that doesn’t include their opportunities late in the game with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.
On another night, the Flames’ power play struggles could have cost them two points. Instead, their goaltending held them in the game and their shorthanded units were the difference-maker. It’s not really a recipe that begs for repeating, but it was enough on Monday against the Panthers.
The Flames are back in action on Thursday when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.
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