In the latter stages of an intense goaltending duel in the Flames’ designated house of pain, Talbot came up with a late save so sensational it prompted a standing ovation by his teammates.
“Once in a while you see it,” said game-winning goal scorer Mikael Backlund of a standing O and accompanying stick taps on the boards that punctuated Talbot’s late kick save on Nick Ritchie.
“It was a big moment. A lot of guys have played here for us for a long time and had a tough time in this rink, so to get that big save like that in a rink like this was a key moment for sure.”
Entering the game with one win in their last 29 road games at the Honda Center dating back to 2004, the Flames put Talbot in a tricky spot with just his second start of the year.
One night earlier in Los Angeles the Flames turned in a listless performance – the type that has dotted their season early on.
The 32-year-old reclamation project responded with 29 stops, many of which were spectacular, in a 2-1 victory.
“That was big for me tonight after another week off,” said Talbot, whose only other start this year was a hard-luck loss in San Jose in which he played well.
“It’s obviously special to get your first win with a new team. I played with (Milan Lucic) the last four years now and it was his 900th game, so that was also a big storyline for him and it was nice to get him a win.”
An even bigger storyline would be for Talbot to be able to turn his career around after two tough seasons in Edmonton and Philadelphia.
One man who won’t be surprised to see Talbot rebound is Kings coach Todd McLellan, who coached Talbot in Edmonton for several seasons, including three years ago when he led the league with 42 wins.
“He was fresh, he was confident and he had a spark in his eye,” said McLellan of the magical year in which Talbot paced the Oilers to a rare playoff spot.
“He would come to the rink knowing that things would happen. It’s such a tough position when you lose that confidence a little bit, then it can diminish and it’s such a tough position to play because the act in front of you really affects your confidence level and your numbers.
“He helped us get into a real good position. But then a lot of pressure and the act in front of him wasn’t as good as it needed to be as well. He can absolutely recover. No doubt.”
The plan coming into the season was to have David Rittich play slightly more games than Talbot. However, an impressive off-season, camp, and start to the season for Rittich led coaches to ride him in eight of 10 starts.
Two confidence-building assignments for Talbot, as well as a clean slate in the third period Saturday, should go a long ways towards prompting coaches to spell Rittich off more often. Head coach Bill Peters said as much after the game.
“He hasn’t had a lot of work with us but the work he has had he’s been good,” said Peters, whose club won for just the second time in six tries on the road.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in him and as we get a little busier here you’ll see him more.”
Talbot wasn’t the only newbie making a difference Sunday, as rarely-used Michael Stone tied the game 1-1 with a point blast that beat Ducks goalie John Gibson due to the effective screen put up by Sean Monahan in front. Stone drew into the lineup only because of an injury to Sam Bennett that required an AHL forward be called up in Alan Quine. Because the Flames are so tight to the salary cap it meant the extra defenceman needed to be papered down to the AHL to create cap space. Oliver Kylington drew that short straw because he doesn’t require having to clear waivers.
Such roster shuffles landed Austin Czarnik on the second line where he helped with the game winner.
Czarnik stole the puck at centre and fed it to Matthew Tkachuk, whose quick pass to Backlund on the 2-on-1 was one-timed past Gibson midway through the third.
From there, Talbot and several defenders got in the way of a flurry of shots to preserve a win that gets the team to 5-4-1 before heading home for a pair.
“Playing in this division you hear those storylines over the years,” said a smiling Talbot when asked if he was aware of the Flames ghastly record mere minutes from Disneyland.
“We knew maybe we’ve got some bad omens in here but hopefully this is the end of that.”