Monahan’s hat trick gives Flames the kind of bounce-back they needed

Sean Monahan had a hat trick and Michael Frolik had the OT winner as the Calgary Flames beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4.

PHILADELPHIA – Some things never quite make sense in hockey.

Take Sean Monahan.

A determined young man, who in just four-plus seasons has staked his claim to owning the blue paint, had 115 goals to his résumé yet had never scored three times in a single game.

Until Saturday afternoon, that is.

“My comment to him tonight was, ‘you’ve scored an awful lot of goals for not having a hat trick,” said Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan.

In yet another seat-of-your-pants flyby, the Flames overcame an early two-goal deficit and stunned the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4 in overtime Saturday at Wells Fargo Center mostly because of Monahan’s second-period, power-play hat trick.

Power-play hat trick? Don’t see that very often.

This was the kind of bounce-back the Flames were seeking after sitting on an 8-2 thrashing in Detroit Wednesday, made all the more humiliating because they also got pummelled in a series of fights that resulted in Matthew Tkachuk‘s suspension.

The Flames have already shown they’re again legit in the Pacific Division, but as the quarter-pole passes, some aspects still need tightened.

Monahan and sidekick South Jersey winger Johnny Gaudreau continue to demonstrate the kind of chemistry that makes this such a fun club to watch – as so many Western Conference clubs are these days.

The puck literally follows Gaudreau, like the breakaway pass straight up centre ice he took from Monahan for a goal which drew a chorus of boos from his hometown fans. Johnny Hockey drives this club, no doubt.

And Monahan knows where to go every time on the ice. With his soft hands he made good use of two Gaudreau rebounds, putting them past Flyers goalie Brian Elliott to make it a 4-4 game in that wild, turnaround second period that more of less typifies the kind of hockey Calgary plays.

“He has a great shot, makes my job pretty easy,” Gaudreau said. “Just plant him in the slot and he has a world-class shot. I’m always giving him a hard time. He hasn’t had a hat trick and he has a 100-some goals. He got his first one tonight. I’m really happy for him.”

Monahan soft-peddled his feat.

“It’s cool,” he said. “Johnny found me a couple times there and I mean, he’s from here, he’s got a lot of people here, so I’m gonna put the puck in the net for him. It’s nice, that hat trick means a lot to me.”

There’s an axiom in hockey that states when you get tagged pretty good one game, your next outing should see some fire and brimstone.

That wasn’t the case for the Flames, however, as the Flyers had far more energy in the opening period, scoring three times, making it 13 goals yielded by Calgary over its previous five periods.

The good news is the Flames showed resiliency as the game moved on. Even better, their beleaguered penalty kill – dead last in the NHL – actually gave them a much-needed lift with a huge kill over the final 2:01 of regulation.

That one kill energized Calgary as Michael Frolik kept the Flames unbeaten in OT (5-0). Maybe it carries over into the second quarter of the NHL season as it’s the one area the Flames need to improve. It starts with Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic being more aggressive on pucks, which happened on that last kill.

More surprising is that goalie Mike Smith, who is essentially babysitting the crease until either Jon Gillies or Tyler Parsons prove ready to inherit it, moves the puck out well in traffic and yet his PK units can’t clear it.

Calgary had similar problems early last season when its PK ranked last yet finished 12th. So there’s still lots of games left for the Flames to correct things. They gave up one power play goal Saturday.

“It has to improve,” Gulutzan said emphatically. “We’ve got to make an improvement there for sure. That kill will help our group. Two minutes left on the clock, you need a big kill and you’ve been struggling all season, that goes a long way.”

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Another takeaway from this one was the play of rookie centre Mark Jankowski. It’s no coincidence Gulutzan chooses to play ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr with him.

The pairing of Jagr with Jankowski is reminiscent of No. 68’s time in Philly when he was paired with then-rookie Sean Couturier. Couturier learned from Jagr, which is exactly what Gulutzan is hoping will transpire with the 23-year-old Jankowski.

Jankowski didn’t have an official shot on net but he generated some chances for his line and plays a heavy game.

“We haven’t seen our best hockey,” Gaudreau said. “Detroit was a little eye opening for us. … Been playing some good hockey, but as a team, we have another level we can go to which is exciting. I hope it started tonight.”

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