CALGARY — He hasn’t found the back of the net lately, but Matthew Tkachuk is finding other ways to help Calgary win.
Elias Lindholm scored twice including the winner on a power play, which was created by Tkachuk, as the Flames led early, fell behind twice, and then came back to win 4-3 over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Flames’ fifth win in a row moves them into first place in the tight Pacific Division, one point up on both Arizona and Vegas. The Oilers are two points back.
"Right now, the puck’s not going in like it was at the beginning of the year for me," said Tkachuk, goalless in his last seven games. "There was a lot up for grabs tonight so you’ve got to do whatever it takes to go and get that win."
Tied 3-3, a key moment in the game came at 18:06 of the second period.
Zack Kassian took offence to a hit from Matthew Tkachuk, one of the three times he got him on the night, and threw off his gloves and started punching the Flames forward, also tossing him to the ice twice. Kassian got a double-roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct while Tkachuk was not penalized.
Edmonton killed off the first penalty, but 39 seconds into the third period — while working on the second minor — Lindholm snapped a shot from just inside the face-off circle that beat Mikko Koskinen over his shoulder.
"If he doesn’t want to get hit, then stay off the tracks," Tkachuk said. "I got him three times there. You’d think he’d learn after the first one. If he wants to react like that, we’ll take the power play, we’ll take the game-winner and we’ll move on in first place."
Kassian called the hits "targeted" and was unhappy Tkachuk didn’t engage.
"You don’t let people take advantage of you no matter what the situation is," Kassian said, defending his actions.
"If you’re going to hit like that, you have to answer the bell every once in a while," Kassian continued. "He’s just a young punk that has to figure that aspect out in the game."
Flames interim coach Geoff Ward said Tkachuk influenced the game all night, despite being held to one point, the second-assist on Lindholm’s opening goal at 4:04 of the first period.
"You see what kind of an impact he can have on the game. Not much you can say, he was a beast out there for us," said Ward.
Dave Tippett said he would have preferred if Kassian had saved settling the score for another time.
"Tight game, its 3-3, get a number and deal with it later, deal with winning the game," said the Oilers coach. "Those things happen, it’s an emotional game, it’s a battleâ€¦wish we could have killed the penalty for him."
While the game had been penalty-free up until that point — unlike the fight-filled Flames-Oilers games of the 80s — there was still plenty of intensity between the two teams that entered the night with identical records.
"A lot of emotions, more like a playoff game. It was a fun game to play in and that was a huge win for us," Lindholm said.
Johnny Gaudreau and Dillon Dube also scored for Calgary (25-17-5). The Flames open up a three-game road trip in Montreal that will take them up to the all-star break and the team’s bye week.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a pair and Connor McDavid scored for Edmonton (24-18-5), which lost in regulation for the first time in six games. Kailer Yamamoto had two assists and Leon Draisaitl also had a helper to extend his point-streak to six games (3G-6A).
"We’ll take seven out of 10 points," added McDavid. "That’s a positive road trip. But this was a big one for us. This was a big game for both sides. We wanted to find a way to get a big win here."
Calgary finished 1-for-2 with the extra man. The Oilers No. 1 ranked power play was 0-for-1.
Slamming the door in the third was former Oiler Cam Talbot, who had 15 saves in the final period to finish with 29 stops — improving his record to 7-7-0 this season.
Koskinen had 29 saves for Edmonton to fall to 14-9-2.
Edmonton took the first of two leads at 9:06 of the first on a vintage play from McDavid, who chipped the puck past Noah Hanifin at the Oilers blueline then sped off on a breakway. As he burst in on Talbot, he beat him with a little forehand chip shot into the top corner.
"I’ve seen him do it 100 times already in practices and games, and you see it all over highlight reels. He can beat you so many different ways. You’ve just got to try and stay patient. I didn’t think I put myself out of position, but sometimes those guys find a hole," Talbot said.
Notes: Sean Monahan had an assist giving him 399 career points, which moves him ahead of Paul Reinhart and into 14th on the Flames all-time list. Gaudreau had two points to tie him with Jim Peplinski (424 pts) for 11th..