With continued dominance, Flames justifying excitement for playoffs in Calgary

Elias Lindholm scored the eventual game-winning goal in the first period and Jacob Markstrom stopped all 19 shots he faced as the Calgary Flames blanked the Detroit Red Wings 3-0.

CALGARY – Ever watched a cat toy with a mouse?

Mice around the world have a better chance than the Detroit Red Wings had on Saturday.

In a game that featured relatively few penalty calls, the Flames found themselves on what looked like a 40-minute power play to open a game they went on to win 3-0.

The only time it seemed fair was when the Flames played short a man, although the Wings recorded just one shot over their pair of man advantages. 

It wasn’t until late in the second period that the Wings had their first shot on goal from within 40 feet – a Givani Smith offering from 28-feet out that was their fifth shot of the night.

At that point the Flames had solved Thomas Greiss with only one of their 31 salvos, keeping things somewhat interesting into the third.

It was then Tyler Toffoli and Blake Coleman who scored to finish off the Wings. 

It was a night that said as much about the dominance of the Calgary Flames these days as it does about how far the rebuilding Wings are from respectability.

The win gives the Flames a 16-2-1 record the last six weeks, allowing them to surge well ahead of the Pacific division, not to mention the league’s watch list.

Their run includes a 14-1-1 spree at home during which Elias Lindholm has points in every game, adding up to 23 all told.

His first-period goal Saturday was his 16th in his last 17 games – a run that has him leading all NHL scorers in that span, including Hart/Rocket Richard favourite Auston Matthews.

Hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time with a lengthy snapper midway through the opening period, making him the first Flames to score 30 in under 60 games since Jarome Iginla in 2006-07.

Not bad for a guy garnering plenty of attention this season for being amongst the NHL’s top defensive forwards, at a league-best plus-45.

“It’s nice to get to 30 – I’ve been close a couple times, but haven’t been able to get there,” said Lindholm, who isn’t far behind Joe Mullen’s franchise record of plus-51 in 1988-89.   

“We played well. Made it hard on them. The shots kind of ended up that way. We spent the majority of the time in the o-zone. It’s fun to be down there.”

In a week that has seen the Flames beat their provincial rival, the league’s first-place team, and the two-time defending champs, this had trap game written all over it.

Well, the only trap was the one in the Wings end, where it seemed 90 per cent of the game was played.

A raucous crowd of 17,658 celebrated 80’s Night at the Saddledome, a perfect throwback to the dominant Flames teams late in that decade.

At one point the Wings went almost a full 20 minutes between shots, making it an interesting challenge for Jacob Markstrom to finish with 19 saves.

His nine shutouts this season has him three up on Ilya Sorokin for the league lead, and leaves him just one short of Miikka Kiprusoff’s franchise record for a season.

“It’s definitely a team stat,” said Markstrom.

“I try to tell the guys to keep it going and keep playing this way. It’s fun to be a goalie on this team. This whole home stretch has been awesome. Since we got full capacity, the Dome has been great. They’re helping us a lot, and it’s extra motivating to play better and get some extra momentum swings in a game when it’s really tight.”

Excitement is building in a town that has every reason to believe this team is capable of a lengthy run this spring.

The buzz in a near-capacity Dome Saturday was ratcheted up after Toffoli put the Flames up 2-0 midway through the third period with the team’s second power-play goal.

Coleman salted it away with a net-crashing jam-job in the final five minutes.

For the second-straight game, the opposition took exception to a late Sean Monahan hit, prompting the crowd to chant “Looch” as veteran winger Milan Lucic dropped the gloves with Smith.

A rematch with the top-ranked Avs in Colorado Sunday will be the Flames’ fifth game in seven nights, making their remarkable run all the more impressive.

Minutes before warmup the Flames announced Oliver Kylington was out day-to-day with a lower-body injury. It marked just the second man-game lost to injury this season for a Flames blueliner.

“Surprise to me too,” said Sutter. “He had a full practice (Friday).”

It opened the door for Michael Stone to play for just the third time this season, and his first since Dec. 5. The veteran played 18 minutes Saturday alongside Chris Tanev, picking up an assist on Coleman’s goal.

“Proud of his effort,” said Sutter of the team’s seventh defenceman. “Tells you about what he puts in every day.”

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