Flames’ Mangiapane taking game to new level through dogged determination

Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves as the Calgary Flames downed the New York Rangers 5-1.

His numbers of late are downright spectacular.

The timeliness of his goals has been on point too.

While Andrew Mangiapane’s official coming of age came last June in Latvia, the MVP of the World Championship has sandwiched that effort with some impressive stats.

Combine his final four games of last season with his opening five this year and the 25-year-old Flames winger has 10 goals in his last nine NHL outings.

Add seven goals in seven games for Team Canada, and outside of playoff scoring god Brayden Point, Mangiapane is the world’s hottest goal-scorer over that span.

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The Barrie Colts walk-on picked up two more goals in a 5-1 Flames win at Madison Square Garden Monday, including a game-turning snipe early in the second period that changed the complexion of the game.

Less than a minute after Jacob Markstrom preserved a 1-0 lead by opening the second period with a spectacular pad save on Filip Chytil, Mangiapane’s ensuing forecheck prompted a Rangers turnover he buried past red-hot Rangers starter Igor Shesterkin.

“It’s either a 1-1 game, or it ended up being a 2-0 game – there’s a huge difference,” said Markstrom, whose 28-save performance was also key to the Flames’ third-straight win.

“Darryl (Sutter) has been talking about it, and myself too – as goalies it’s about timely saves, especially in this league. When the other team is pushing you have to come up with one or two saves, and then Mango finished it off there to make it 2-0. That was a big goal for us, for sure.”

It held up as the third game-winner he’s scored in the Flames’ last nine games.

“Mango” is certainly a new nickname for the man who prompted a fan to throw a loaf of bread on the Saddledome ice opening night.

His confidence is also something that has evolved, which he credits for a scoring binge that has him two off the NHL lead with five in five games.

“Every game I’m playing now my confidence is growing,” said Mangiapane, who finished second on the team with 18 goals last year.

“I think maybe when I first came into the league I was a little shy to make a play or maybe play it safe and chip it in. Now I’m just trying to play my game. Play with confidence. You have to play with confidence in this league and right now the puck is going in for me.”

In hockey, like in life, you make your own luck by working hard and doing the things that lead to success.

Mangiapane’s dogged determination as the team’s most tenacious forechecker has led to plenty of chances for the sixth-round pick, as has his penchant for loitering in an area most 5-foot-10 players don’t thrive: around the net.

He scored his second of the night from there on the power play with five seconds remaining, when he corralled a puck shot wide of the net and put it into a gaping net from the doorstep.

“He’s really good around the net,” said Darryl Sutter when asked how Mangiapane is able to score so many goals that way.

“I think he’s got a great work ethic. He’s got good hands. Even the play at the end, it comes off the boards. A lot of guys aren’t going to make that play. They’re going to fan on it or not get it. He’s a good package for us.”

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Coming off a shutout in Detroit his last outing, Markstrom’s early success had him extending his shutout streak to 105 minutes before Dryden Hunt made it a 2-1 game early in the third.

However, the Flames’ top checking line stepped up to stymie the Rangers’ momentum with a Blake Coleman goal that ultimately preserved the win.

“That was big,” said Mangiapane of Coleman’s second as a Flame, followed three minutes later by Coleman’s setup for Mikael Backlund’s first.

“The crowd kind of got into it after they scored that goal so we needed to pump it back up. It was a big goal Coles scored, and Backs followed it up with another one. It was good we kind of responded to that. And that’s what we’re going to need to do the rest of the season.”

Coleman’s two-point night included a game-high eight shots on goal.

All told, Coleman, Backlund and Tyler Pitlick combined for 13 of the team’s 37 shots, proving a good defence can be a solid offence.

Perhaps more to the point, a good defence has plenty to do with great goaltending, something Markstrom has provided the last two games, following a shaky start.

The Flames are now 26-3-2 when scoring three goals since last year, putting a premium on defensive efforts like these where Markstrom was asked to make a few timely saves like the one he made on the game-opening breakaway by Artemi Panarin.

“I think we’re playing great and I’m playing better too,” said Markstrom, whose club has won all three games on this five game road trip that stops in New Jersey Tuesday.

“I wasn’t very happy with my start to the season. You challenge yourself to be better every day and work on your craft and right now I’m getting some bounces.”


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