Flames re-ignite playoff push with impressive response after ugly loss

Tyler Toffoli dished three assists and Dan Vladar made 19/20 saves as the Calgary Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1.

ANAHEIM — Not. Done. Yet.

Oh sure, the odds of a Calgary Flames playoff berth are still longer than an Alberta winter.

But for those who felt like Monday’s 8-2 tune-up in Tinseltown was the fatal blow most Calgarians have been bracing for, we direct you a half-hour south to Anaheim for Tuesday’s encore.

A loss would surely have been the final straw, especially since their closest rivals, Winnipeg and Nashville, had won earlier in the night.

Alas, a 5-1 win over the Ducks Tuesday allowed the Flames to stay four points back of the Jets and one up on the Preds, who have three games in hand.

Despite widespread belief to the contrary, these Flames have not given up.

Many will be surprised to learn that since Dec. 13, no team in the Western Conference has accrued more road points than Calgary.

The lads have racked up points in seven of their last nine games, compiling a 5-2-2 record to stay in the fight.

It just doesn’t feel like they’re mounting any sort of charge because sprinkled in between some big wins were two overtime heartbreakers and two humbling setbacks — one to these same Ducks and one an eight-spot posted by the Kings.

None of this is to try to paint a rosy picture, especially since the Flames would lose a tiebreaker to the Jets and thus need to make up five points with just 10 games remaining.

It’s just to say, you can grab the shovel but don’t bury ’em just yet.

“Honestly, I think we’ve been playing playoff hockey the last 30 games now,” said Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane, who scored his first goal in 15 games. “We knew the situation we’ve been in. We kind of did this to ourselves, and it’s time to focus one game at a time and see what we’re made of.

“We don’t have many games here, so we’ve got to go on a streak and pile wins together.

“That’s all that matters to us.”

[brightcove videoID=6323051180112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Playing without the services of team heartbeat Chris Tanev due to an upper-body injury, the Flames did well to move past Monday’s whooping with a goal in the opening minute by Nick Ritchie.

Every single player recorded at least one shot on goal, in a game the Flames controlled from start to finish.

Goals by Troy Stecher and Rasmus Andersson had them up 3-0 early in the second period, allowing them to cruise to a win they absolutely needed.

They’ll need to win almost all of the remaining 10 if they’re going to finish this improbable journey.

And they know it.

But it started with erasing Monday’s bloodshed.

“Last night wasn’t good enough and wasn’t acceptable, and we wanted to rebound from that,” said the Flames’ Mikael Backlund, who finished with two assists. “It’s total opposite from last night. Last night, we barely touched the puck and tonight we had it a lot more, so yeah, that’s how we want to play.”

Third-period goals by Elias Lindholm and Mangiapane rounded out the scoring.

All eyes were on the warmup, to see who head coach Darryl Sutter would start and scratch.

The early headlines had fans grumbling over Jakob Pelletier’s return to the press box in favour of Milan Lucic.

Dan Vladar did indeed get the start after mopping up the carnage in L.A., making 19 saves in his first start in 11 games.

“Guys came in and did a really good job for us,” said Sutter, whose club fired 43 shots on goal.

“Good to see Big Nick score, first shift.

“It’s good to score the first goal on the road.

“Troy’s given us some energy, he’s done a good job for us.”

In a dressing room that had considerably more life in it the night before, Stecher was happy to pose with the puck he scored his first goal as a Flame with.

“It’s must-win games now, so to get a goal on the first shift of the game was obviously huge,” said the defenceman who played with Dennis Gilbert on the third pairing.

“I think we were just really focused tonight.

“We had four lines, and all the pairings were going tonight, and Vladdy was kicking behind.

“Obviously, the start was what propelled us to carry on throughout the rest of the night.”

We’ll see how much further they can continue to stay in the hunt, starting Thursday when Vegas comes to town.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.