NASHVILLE – Matthew Tkachuk called it his “last resort.”
Twitterfolk anointed it the goal of the year, and one observer dubbed it the Music City Miracle.
Whatever it was that beat Pekka Rinne top shelf in the dying seconds of an improbable 6-5 overtime win over Nashville at Bridgestone Arena Thursday, there’s a feeling it may turn the fortunes of a flailing Flames club on a dime.
In a game that saw the Flames outshot 14-0 to start, trail 4-1 in the third and need a (second) game-tying goal with 39 seconds left, it was Tkachuk’s magic mitts that ended one of the team’s ugliest starts with the prettiest of goals.
As time seemed destined to expire on overtime, Tkachuk one-timed a rebound off a defender in the high slot with a between-the-legs buzzer beater that finished just under the bar.
“I try it, it seems, like once a game,” smiled Tkachuk of the leg-tweener job he certainly has attempted many times (once successfully) while net-side.
“I’m lucky it went in. I knew there was very little time on the clock, very little, like a couple seconds. Where the puck was, I couldn’t get my feet or my body around to keep it on my forehand, and I didn’t think I’d have the time to do that. I didn’t want to go ahead of it and try to backhand-smack it. So that was the last resort. It went in, which was nice.”
Nice enough to go down as one of the most incredible (and timely) goals in franchise lore.
Is it something he practised?
“Not the way it was done out there,” laughed Tkachuk.
“Normally, I try it when I’m on the power play or on the goal-line, like sharp-angle stuff. But never when I’m right in the middle of the slot in OT with one second left.”
The fact it positively ended one of the wildest Flames games in recent memory will have people talking about it long after it’s determined whether the 7-6-2 Flames can use it as the jolt they’ve been so sorely needing to kick-start their season.
“It’s too early to say that,” said Tkachuk, whose flair for the dramatic saw him tie the game late with the goalie pulled, before ending it emphatically.
“If we go on to win 10 in a row, you could say it changed a little bit, but we’re just looking forward to Saturday (in Columbus).
“You could say we snuck out of here with a win. And you could say we didn’t deserve it — and we didn’t for the first period. We rolled. Everybody was going, everybody was contributing. Even if you weren’t scoring, you were getting chances, offensive-zone chances, and it worked out well.”
Two nights earlier the Flames were victimized by an Andrei Svechnikov lacrosse-style goal from behind the net YouTubers were calling one of the best goals in decades.
This one might have been better, given the situation, the speed in which the rebound was on his stick, the fact he-one-timed it and because it was released with his stick between his legs.
It happened so fast most of his teammates were unaware he’d used a trick shot to finish it, prompting a gathering in the team’s off-limits change room where groans and laughs could be heard post-game after the group saw it again.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know he went between his legs. Did he actually? Then it’s a hell of a play,” chuckled Rasmus Andersson, who was named the team’s player of the game for an early third period goal that kick-started a three-goal comeback.
“I thought the buzzer had almost went, so I didn’t really pay too much attention to it and all of a sudden everyone was standing up. I guess I’ll have to check it out on video.”
Him and ten million other people.
“I saw it right now – it’s crazy,” said Oliver Kylington, emerging from the change room.
“I was surprised when I saw that. He’s a high-skilled guy and it’s only him that can score goals like that. We just saw it and everyone basically looked at each and said, ‘wow.’ Huge goal for us. Great win on the road to come back for this game.
“We said going into the third we’re still in it. We believe in ourselves. Winning this game and how it ended is a good push for us and I think we just need to build off this and go into Columbus with a good feeling.”
It’s a foreign feeling for the former Western Conference leaders of a year ago, as swagger has yet to make an appearance anywhere near this bunch.
Yet, there they were in one of the league’s toughest buildings, against one of the hottest and stingiest teams, scoring three in the third to tie it up with an Alan Quine stunner with 3:21 remaining.
Austin Watson’s second of the night seemed to kill the Flames buzz two minutes later with what appeared to be the Halloween dagger in the Flames heart.
Enter Tkachuk, who had previously gone goal-less in 14 road games.
“I didn’t think it was going to be possible after the first 20 minutes or first 10 minutes,” said Tkachuk, whose team didn’t register a shot until almost 16 minutes into the night and down 2-0.
“Especially them scoring two shorthanded goals (by Calle Jarnkrok in the second) kind of took the life out of us. But I thought to start the third, Andy had a really big goal (on) a good play by Johnny (Gaudreau). We were all over them in that third period and that’s the way we need to be to be at our best.”
Desperate is when they seem to be approaching their best.
“A lot of good things in the third period – that looks more like us, right?” said coach Bill Peters.
“We put the work boots on, played with some speed and possessed the puck.”
And turned a romp into a victory that may have lasting effects.
“We’re going to find out moving forward but it should be a springboard to bigger and better things – that’s what I hope happens,” added Peters.
“(Tkachuk) was excellent. In the first period, we didn’t have many guys engaged. He was engaged. He dragged guys into the battle. Chucky was, by far, our best player tonight and it was right from the drop of the puck, so that’s good to see. We need more guys on board like that, right from the start of the game.”
“I give the guys credit for sticking with it. It’s a very capable group. Now we just have to find our work habits consistently here. If we do that, we’ll be where we want to be. You can’t play with one foot on the gas, one on the brake. So let’s take the one off the brake.”