Flames Thoughts: Streaking Calgary finding ways to win

The Flames blew a 2-0 lead but Dougie Hamilton got the overtime winner to salvage a 3-2 win over the Wild.

After sweeping a three-game home stand, the Calgary Flames stretched their winning streak to a season-long four games with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday.

FIND-A-WAY FLAMES

During December, the Flames lost a number of games they could have or should have won, but since beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime in their last game of 2017, Calgary has been finding ways to win.

On New Year’s Eve, the Flames blew a 3-0 lead, giving up the game-tying goal with the Blackhawks’ goaltender on the bench, an extra attacker on the ice and less than two minutes left in the third period, before regrouping to win on OT.

In the first contest of 2018, the Flames fell behind 2-0 before battling back to beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3.

Last Saturday, the Flames let a 2-0 third period lead slip away but Dougie Hamilton prevented the Anaheim Ducks from picking up a point when he broke a 2-2 tie with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation.

On Tuesday, it was déjà vu all over again. Up 2-0 following 40 minutes, the Flames were badly outplayed in the third period, when the Wild scored twice to square the score. But Calgary found a way to win in overtime, when Hamilton put the puck past Wild backstop Alex Stalock to help his team pick up another important pair of points.

With the win, the Flames improved to 14-0-1 this season and 48-0-2 since the start of last season when leading through two periods of play.

ROAD WARRIOR

Halfway through the regular season, Mike Smith has been the Flames’ most valuable player. As good as Smith has been at home, he’s been even better on the road. With Tuesday’s win, Smith improved to 7–3–3 with one shutout, a 1.96 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage on the road this season. The 35-year-old puck-playing goaltender even has two assists in 13 away games.

Going into Tuesday’s game, however, Smith had lost five straight games outside of Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, going 0-2-3 despite posting a 1.94 GAA and a .942 SV% in those contests. It was good to see the Flames give their goalie some run support, to borrow a baseball term, in Tuesday’s win in Minnesota.

FERLAND ON FIRE

After establishing new career-highs for goals, assists and points with 15 goals, 10 assists and 25 points in 76 games last season, Micheal Ferland has taken his game to a whole new level this season.

The 25-year-old power forward had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s win, his 18th goal and 25th and 26th points of the season.

Before the game, Glen Gulutzan said Ferland plays just as important a role on the Flames’ first line as his ‘mates Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. When Ferland is on, which he has been way more often than not this season, his ability to get in on the forecheck, punish opposing defencemen, retrieve pucks, create space and get to the net makes life easier for Gaudreau and Monahan.

Would Ferland be having this much success if he wasn’t playing with the team’s top two offensive players? No, of course not. With that said, one of the biggest question marks for the Flames when the season started was first-line right wing. Ferland has been the short-term answer, and with his much-improved consistency this season, is looking more and more like the long-term solution.

MONEY HANDS

With better coaching and goaltending than ever before, the hardest thing to do in the NHL is score. Sean Monahan has made scoring goals look relatively easy in his career. With a goal in Tuesday’s win over the Wild, Monahan reached the 20-goal plateau for the fifth time in as many seasons in the league. With 127-career goals, Monahan, the sixth-overall pick in 2013, has tallied 34 more times than any other player from his draft class.

ROAD TRIPPIN’

Following Tuesday’s OT victory, the Flames spent the night in St. Paul. Wednesday is a travel day for the Flames, who will continue their four-game road trip on Thursday, when they’ll put their season-long four-game winning streak on the line when they take on the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.