Emotional OT win over Canucks gives Flames momentum at opportune time

Tyler Toffoli scored two goals, including the OT winner as the Calgary Flames fought back to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in the extra frame.

VANCOUVER – In a dressing room where fun forgot, you could hear their jubilant, post-game celebration down the hall.

If ever there was a time to snap the season-long skid that had seen the Flames fail to mount a third-period comeback victory, it was Friday night with the season on the line.

And if anyone was capable of righting the wrongs that have seen the Flames go 0-18-3 when trailing after two periods, it was the man who once called Vancouver home, albeit briefly.

“It’s about time we came back and won a game,” said Tyler Toffoli, whose goals started and finished a 5-4 overtime win over the Canucks that saw his club claw back to tie the game on three occasions.

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“We needed it.

“Obviously feels good.”

Darryl Sutter certainly wasn’t feeling quite the same way, showing up at the post-game presser ashen-faced and devoid of any semblance of emotion.

Turns out it wasn’t the stress of a situation that likely had many fans’ stomachs in a knot as well, but a bug of some sort that had him puking in the coaches’ room both intermissions.

As he said afterward, he was a game-time decision.

Like his team, he too found a way through an evening that looked eerily similar to so many heartbreaking losses that have dotted the season for the Flames.

Outshooting a non-playoff team by more than two to one (it ended up 41-20) and playing catch-up all evening long, the Flames’ playoff hopes were at death’s door, against a red-hot team with nothing to lose.

After showing tremendous resilience and character to bounce back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits, there was Jonathan Huberdeau, of all people, tying the game on the power play with three minutes left.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Huberdeau of his goal, which came one period after he was stymied by Thatcher Demko on a penalty shot.

“Obviously I wanted to score that one. I didn’t, but stuck with it and got a huge goal at the end, on the power-play.

“Much-needed, to send it to overtime and then Toff did the rest.”

“It’s just good to come back after two periods. I don’t think we had one this year so it’s good to have one at this time of the year, it’s really important.”

Well aware the Winnipeg Jets had won earlier in the evening to stretch their lead on Calgary to four points, the pressure was on the Flames to prolong their unlikely stake in this playoff race.

Goals from Blake Coleman and Troy Stecher tied the game 3-3, only to see the Canucks go up once again a mere 14 seconds later, setting up a wild third period.

“We knew we needed that win,” said Huberdeau, whose effort gained the confidence of the coach who started him and Nazem Kadri to open overtime.

“After the second period we didn’t panic, we were playing well, we were getting chances, so just stuck with it and came out with the huge two points, finally, in OT.”

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They’re now 7-15 in games ending after 60 minutes, but the only number that matters now is two: the difference between Calgary and Winnipeg with six games remaining apiece.

What’s he got? 33?” said Sutter when asked where his team would be without Toffoli, who set career highs with 33 goals and 69 points.

“Take those two 40s out (Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk) and that’s exactly why we’re still in it – those guys who are scoring big goals for us.”

The emotional victory gives the Flames something they’ve been lacking plenty of this season – confidence and momentum.

The win marked just the third time in 11 tries this team turned a two-game winning streak into three.

The last time they did it was almost four months earlier.

The overtime winner came seconds after Jacob Markstrom made a big save to give Calgary possession, sending the puck up ice quickly via MacKenzie Weegar, to Mikael Backlund whose perfect saucer pass landed right on Toffoli’s stick for a rooftop finish.

It silenced the crowd and sent a sizable number of red-clad fans on either side of the Rockies into a state of exuberance, mixed with equal parts relief.

“Credit to Marky, Hubey, Colesy, we all kind of stepped up and did the right things and came out with a win,” said Toffoli. 

“Marky made a huge save, saved my ass, and Weegs made a nice play to me and Backs and then he made a nice play to me, two-on-one. 

“It was a huge game for us. We knew we needed the two points and we found a way.”

Something they haven’t been able to say very often this season.

“Don’t have to say much, you look at the standings, where we are, and the fight we’re in – big two points for us, obviously,” said Stecher of the win.

“Gotta keep this going.

“I think it’s our first come-from-behind win in the third, so no better time for it. 

“I think it speaks volumes to the character we have in the room. We talked about it at intermission, we didn’t play well against San Jose at home, found a way to win. 

“Tonight, it felt like every time we scored we took a step backwards. That’s not something you want to do, but at the end of the day you find a way to get two points and find a way to win.”
His thoughts when the winner went in?

“No idea, I was just happy we won – I was pumped,” said the former Canuck, who hinted at some extra motivation. 

“Obviously, (Toffoli), Marky, Tanny (injured defenceman Chris Tanev) and I didn’t get re-signed (by the Canucks) at the same time, and we’re good friends, so I followed their careers.

“Toff’s had a lot of success against Vancouver and obviously continued it tonight.”
Three minutes from their season essentially being over, the timing couldn’t have been better for heroics this team has been missing most of the year.

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