Chants of “Hubie’s better” erupted in Calgary’s Saddledome in the third period of the Flames’ 6-2 win over the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday.
In a game that marked the return of former Flame Matthew Tkachuk in a Panthers jersey, the announced 17,086 enjoyed a night of both booing and lauding him, as well as celebrating the performance of a player who became a Flame because of Tkachuk.
Jonathan Huberdeau contributed a goal and an assist to Calgary’s victory as the Flames (10-9-3), improved to 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
Dillon Dube scored short-handed and had two assists, while goaltender Dan Vladar made 30 saves.
Rasmus Andersson, Tyler Toffoli and Andrew Mangiapane each had a goal and an assist, and Brett Ritchie also scored for Calgary.
Nick Cousins and Sam Reinhart countered for the Panthers (10-9-4), who dropped to 3-4-3 in their last 10.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17-of-23 shots in the loss. The Panthers had lost 4-3 in overtime the previous night to the Oilers in Edmonton.
Tkachuk spent his first six NHL seasons with the Flames.
He was coming off a career 104-point season when the 24-year-old winger told the Flames in the summer he wasn’t interested in signing long-term.
Calgary acquired Huberdeau, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional draft pick from Florida in a blockbuster deal.
Tkachuk was booed Tuesday whenever he touched the puck, but the winger also received a partial standing ovation during a video tribute to him early in the first period.
“Just passionate fans here,” Tkachuk said. “It’s obviously nice to see that video.
“A couple seconds of showing what my time was like here on and off the ice, it was nice to see.”
Tkachuk had two shots on goal and his blast in the third period required a sharp save from Vladar to prevent a Panthers goal.
Huberdeau, who played 10 seasons for the Panthers, scored on the power play in a three-goal first period for the Flames.
Bobrovsky stopped the winger on a breakaway with just under five minutes remaining in the game, but Huberdeau collected his rebound and dished the puck out to Toffoli to score Calgary’s fifth goal with a one-timer.
That sparked the Saddledome’s vocal comparison of him and Tkachuk.
“I didn’t hear that. That’s kind of funny, obviously,” Huberdeau said.
He was named the first star of the game.
“He’s a hell of a player,” Andersson said. “At the end of the day, it’s a hockey trade and it’s a trade that works out for both teams. We get Weegsy and Hubie who are hell of a players and Florida gets a really good player as well.”
Huberdeau scored in the shootout round when the Flames edged his former team 5-4 on Nov. 19 in Sunrise.
“I’m glad it’s over the year and now we can just focus on the season,” Huberdeau said.
After three unanswered goals in the opening period, the Flames led 4-2 heading into the third despite getting outshot 21-14.
BLASTY GOOD FOR DUBE
The Flames brought back their black “Blasty” jerseys, featuring a flame-snorting horse’s head, from the COVID-shortened 2021 season. Dube has a team-leading four goals and five assists in seven games wearing Blasty.
PANTHERS MISS BARKOV
The Panthers were without captain Aleksander Barkov for a third straight game because of a non-COVID illness. Barkov has five goals and 13 assists in 19 games this season.
“Feeling better today, which is the first kind of positive news,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said before the game. “We hope he’s on the mend here. Don’t have a timeline for it, but we are more confident and feeling better about where’s he’s at than we were yesterday.”
Another former Flame returns to the Saddledome on Thursday when Calgary is at home to Sean Monahan and the Montreal Canadiens. Monahan played his first nine NHL seasons in Calgary before he was trade to the Habs in August.
Florida continues a western five-game road trip Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks.