The Calgary Flames turned a four-game losing streak into a two-game point streak with a decisive 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Wednesday.
NOT EVEN CLOSE
Up 2-0 through 20 minutes and 5-0 following 40, the Flames dominated the Sabres from pretty much start to finish on Wednesday. In the first period, the Flames third line of Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway did all the damage offensively. With approximately 50 family and friends in attendance, Jankowski, from nearby Hamilton, Ont., who grew up as a Sabres fan and season-ticket holder, assisted on Bennett’s 1-0 goal before scoring the 2-0 goal.
Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton tallied in the second period to make it 5-0. The Sabres scored the only goal of the third period, but it was way too little, way too late. The Flames outshot the Sabres 41-26 and out-chanced them 13-7 en route to the four-goal win.
RITTICH RETURNS TO FORM
Going into Wednesday’s contest, David Rittich was struggling to find his game and his confidence. The 25-year-old rookie was rock-solid versus the Sabres, stopping 25 of 26 shots to snap his four-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Flames and their goaltender, the Sabres’ Casey Nelson scored on a seeing-eye shot with less than 18 seconds left in the game, ending Rittich’s bid for his first NHL shutout. Assuming Mike Smith is not ready to return from the lower-body injury that he sustained on Feb. 11 that has sidelined him for the past 12 games, I strongly suspect Rittich will start Friday’s game against the Senators in Ottawa.
After recording only one point during the Flames’ four-game losing streak, the Flames first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan and Micheal Ferland found the scoresheet four times in Wednesday’s win. Gaudreau, who was goalless with one assist in the previous five games, had two helpers. Monahan snapped four-game goalless and pointless streaks with his team-leading 30th goal of the season. Ferland snapped an eight-game pointless streak with an assist. While the top line didn’t dominate Wednesday’s game, they looked more in-sync than they did in Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins.
OFFENCE FROM THE DEFENCE
Not only was the six-some of Giordano, Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Brett Kulak and Michael Stone good defensively, they also chipped in offensively with six points. Giordano scored his 12th goal of the season, tied for sixth-most by a defenceman in the NHL, and added an assist. Hamilton scored his 15th goal of 2017-18, moving into a tie with the Predators’ P.K. Subban for the most by a D-man. Brodie had two assists. Hamonic had one. When the season started, on paper, it looked like the Flames had one of the top defence cores in the league. While that hasn’t been the case on the ice, I still believe that potential is there, and if the Flames’ blueliners start playing to that potential, they’re going to be a tough team to beat.
A MUCH-NEEDED WIN
While the Flames definitely played well enough to win Monday’s game against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, they didn’t. On Wednesday, the Flames deserved to win and did. By picking up a pair of points versus the Sabres, the Flames transformed a four-game losing streak into a two-game point streak and moved to within one point of a playoff spot. After getting the job done against the 30th-overall Sabres on Wednesday, the Flames have to do the same versus the 29th-overall Senators on Friday.