CALGARY – Most Flames fans likely didn’t know Alan Quine’s name rhymed with twine until he tickled it late Saturday in a telling night at the Dome.
Oh, and Oliver Kylington’s last name starts with a “shhh” – the same sound used to describe what the Calgary Flames just did to the top team in the West.
Actually, make that the second-best team in the West, as a 5-2 Flames win over Nashville put the Flames at the top of the tables while answering several questions about a team the league is finally starting to pay attention to.
The idea going in, was that the hockey world would learn plenty about the Flames this weekend.
Having lost the services of captain Mark Giordano Friday to a two-game suspension, not to mention the team’s best shutdown forward in Mikael Backlund to injury, all the talk the previous 48 hours revolved around who wouldn’t be in the Flames lineup.
However, the story of the game revolved around the depth-charges employed to fill in the gaps in a season of tremendous exchanges between Stockton and Cowtown.
At the tail end of a first-place showdown, there was Quine taking a bow as a game star, being interviewed by Scott Oake on Hockey Night in Canada and getting a pat on the pants by GM Brad Treliving less than 24 hours after he was summoned from the minors.
Although he’d previously played 85 games with the Islanders, the 25-year-old admitted this was the stuff dreams are made of following a dandy insurance marker he scored with eight minutes left in a 3-2 game.
“I made a little fake and snuck her in on the backhand,” said Quine of his slick deke to beat Juuse Saros in alone, kick-starting a raucous celebration witnessed live by his father, Sean, who made the trip in after learning late last night his son would make his Flames debut.
“As soon as it went in I kind of panicked a little bit. I don’t usually celebrate like that but I was pretty excited – just tons of emotion. A crazy 24 hours.”
The assist on Quine’s goal was a piece of art by pinching defenceman Rasmus Andersson, who started the season in Stockton but played Saturday in Giordano’s spot, alongside T.J. Brodie.
Both played 22 minutes to pace the Flames.
Kylington, who was the next blueliner to get the promotion from California, scored his first NHL goal, added his first assist and was named the game’s first star and dressing room hero.
Not bad for his seventh NHL contest.
“I hope I look good,” beamed the 21-year-old, admitting the coveted Calgary Police service hat handed to him by teammates was the first cowboy hat he’d ever worn.
“Amazing feeling. When it came off my stick I had a good feeling and I saw it in the back of the net … I was just happy to score there.”
It was a big-league snipe too, converting an Elias Lindholm pass from behind the net to the high slot where he cleanly beat Saros with a roof job.
“I just feel comfortable,” said Kylington, who left Sweden as a teen to play more than three years in Stockton to date.
“We just showed a good push from guys that haven’t been playing much. A lot of guys I played with in Stockton stepped up and it showed we have good players coming up from underneath.”
Make no mistake – the effort was another sublime performance from Johnny Gaudreau, whose excellence and creativity is so routine now it’s in danger of being taken for granted.
His line led the way with a Sean Monahan goal, followed by an Elias Lindholm empty-netter Gaudreau set up for his second assist of the night.
But the kids were the story – again – including Garnet Hathaway who scored the game-winner on a nifty deflection of a Matthew Tkachuk point blast.
He too is another Stockton grad.
Derek Ryan was moved up into second-line duty for Backlund, who is in the midst of concussion protocol and will certainly miss Sunday’s game in Edmonton.
And that’s where we’ll learn even more about the Flames.
On this night the battered Predators (missing P.K. Subban, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris and Filip Forsberg) didn’t have a viable top unit that required significant shutdown assignments.
All that changes Sunday when Ryan, Tkachuk and Sam Bennett will be tasked with trying to slow down Connor McDavid without the aid of Giordano at the back end.
However, this win by committee sure did the trick on its first test.
Actually, all year they’ve done it, as this team has surged at the West with a run that has seen it claim 19 of its last 22 possible points.
Mike Smith’s attempt to continue his hot streak seemed in question one minute into the third when a sharp angle shot by Craig Smith from far out somehow trickled into the net to tie the game 2-2.
It was eerily similar to the game-winner he gave up against Montreal that saw him lose his starting gig for four games while he regained confidence.
Now he’s brimming with it, winning his sixth straight start by rebounding from the miscue with a huge kick-save on Roman Josi and a save with his mask that preserved the Flames win.