Flames’ Mangiapane makes case for top-six role with hat trick

The Flames erased a two-goal lead by scoring five straight, with Andrew Mangiapane netting a hat trick, and beating the Ducks 6-4.

CALGARY – Andrew Mangiapane has heard all the talk the last few months about what his team’s shopping list is topped by:

A top-six forward to play on the second line, preferably a righty to play on the right side.

That job currently belongs to Mangiapane, who bolstered his resume considerably Monday with an all-world effort that included an assist, a drawn penalty, his first pro hat trick and recognition he may have turned much more than just the game around.

Spearheading a shocking comeback that turned a 3-1, third period deficit into a 6-4 win over the Ducks, Mangiapane’s case for remaining in the top six was echoed by the legions of hats that rained down following his hatty.

“That’s rumours right?” the 23-year-old said, shrugging.

“We could get a right-handed guy – we don’t know. You try not to get that into your head. It’s hard to kind of not, almost, focus on it, but I just kind of let it be. You have to just keep playing your game – it’s out of your control.”

Ah, but maybe it isn’t.

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Given general manager Brad Treliving’s hesitation to dip into the rental pool by next week’s trade deadline, another couple dandies like this from Mangiapane could make it a whole lot easier for the Flames to save their futures.

After all, an hour after Mangiapane’s heroics, another name was crossed off the list of possible trade targets when the Los Angeles Kings sent right-winger Tyler Toffoli to Vancouver.

Winless in five at home and trailing 2-1 late in the second period, it was the 5-foot-10 Mangiapane who was doing his damnedest to spark his club.

A hit on 6-foot-3, 219-pound Nicolas Deslauriers prompted the Ducks lug to punch the pepperpot in the head for a power play opportunity that could have tied the game.

It didn’t.

Three minutes into the third it was Deslauriers, of all people, to put the Ducks up 3-1 with a point shot that ricocheted off Michael Stone’s skate.

The familiar Dome groan, heard often throughout the team’s month-long home winless skid, had some folks heading toward the exits on a Family Day celebration turned ugly by the fragile Flames.

Too bad, as they missed a rare outing in which the Flames won despite trailing after two.

“The potential for us to get bothered by it was probably pretty good, falling behind two goals at home and not being able to win at home for awhile,” Flames coach Geoff Ward said of the Ducks’ lucky goal.

“But I thought they did a good job focusing on what they could control on the ice.”

The goal was to stay the course, and keep peppering Ryan Miller with shots. After all, the Flames said afterward they felt good about their game all afternoon.

No one felt better than Mangiapane, who kickstarted the comeback 90 seconds later with a backhanded roof-job that saw him steer around two defenders in front and out-wait a flailing Miller with unassisted gold.

The deficit was one.

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A Sam Bennett goal 19 seconds later got the joint jumping before a Mangiapane forecheck and feed to Matthew Tkachuk put the hosts ahead for the first time. A Monahan goal, followed by Mangiapane’s empty-netter, reignited faith the Flames can still hang in the Pacific.

“I’m sure he’ll tell you it was important game for him and gave him a lot of confidence, and hopefully he can continue it,” said Tkachuk of Mangiapane, with whom he and Mikael Backlund have formed solid chemistry (all three were named stars of the game).

“He was all over the puck tonight. The way he’s able to protect it down low – for not being a huge guy it’s pretty impressive. He’s strong on his stick and feet. He had a battle won on his first one, second was a great move to his backhand and put it cheese. The third one was an empty netter but he started that with a hit.”

By far the game’s best player, Mangiapane now has 13 goals on the season, giving him a shot for the 20-goal mark many predicted he’d get to.

Given his tenacity, speed, ability to finish and attitude, the kid who eclipsed 50 in junior is proving invaluable in many different ways.

“I think that’s one of my qualities – I can play any type of style,” said Mangiapane, a restricted free agent this summer, who finished plus-four on the afternoon.

“I’m not scared to get in there and make a hit. I’m small so maybe not blowing them up, but definitely getting in there and taking his hands away and turning the puck over.”

And finishing his chances, scoring on all three shot attempts on the afternoon.

“When he’s playing like that he’s feisty out there,” said Cam Talbot, who made 26 saves in the win.

“He’s one of those guys that if the puck is turning the other way he’s putting his nose down and he’s skating until he catches up. He wasn’t just going on the offensive side tonight, but the defensive as well and drew that big penalty for us. He was all over the ice. He’s not the biggest guy but he doesn’t get pushed off pucks too easily, he battles hard down low and he creates a lot for us. He had an unbelievable game tonight, and was rewarded for it.”

Flames host Boston on Friday and there’s a fairly solid chance Mangiapane won’t have to continue wondering about his spot in the lineup.

For a few days anyway.


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