Flames’ top players rally team past Canucks after slow first period

Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan had two points each as the Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Elias Lindholm summed up Jacob Markstrom’s latest larceny with the type of assessment generally reserved for NHL capologists.

“For now, he deserves the contract,” smiled his good pal following a 5-2 win over Vancouver that seemed improbable following a first-period barrage from Markstrom’s former team. “We knew what we were getting (when the Flames signed him to a six-year, $36 million deal), but obviously the way the first period went he stole us a point or two.”

Sound familiar?

On opening night Markstrom’s third-period heroics saved the Flames a loser point in Winnipeg.

On Saturday he stopped all 32 shots to shut out the team he spent seven years with, and on Monday he pulled another one out of the fire with 15 saves in a first period in which the Flames were outshot by Adam Gaudette’s five shots alone.

Much like Miikka Kiprusoff did at the Dome for so many years, the stunningly efficient six-foot-six Swede calmly used everything from the shaft of his stick to the tip of his skate to frustrate the Canucks in a first period the Flames escaped down just 1-0.

His mastery opened the door for the type of second period rebound this team won’t soon forget.

The plan coming into the season was to take some of the attention off Johnny Gaudreau, but this is a bit ridiculous.

On any other night Gaudreau would have been the talk of the town for kickstarting the comeback with a second-period beauty in tight that he’d later follow up with a setup for the ages. With three seconds left in a second period in which four straight Canucks penalties allowed the Flames to dominate with a 20-3 shot advantage, Gaudreau turned from the corner, spotted Lindholm on the other side of the net and dished a peach Lindholm buried with 0.2 seconds remaining.

A backbreaker that put the hosts up 3-1.

Combined with Mark Giordano’s power play blast in the third, the Flames wound up the two-game set going five-for-13 with the man advantage.

All the big boys have been chipping in so far this season, including Mikael Backlund and new power play quarterback Rasmus Andersson, who capped the evening with an empty netter.

“Your best players have to be your best scorers or you can’t win in this league, and right now everybody is contributing — we’re liking a lot of the things we’re seeing right now,” said Geoff Ward, whose club has claimed five of six points thus far.

“We were outworked and outskated by the Canucks in the first period and we were back on our heels, and I give our guys credit for finding a way to turn it around. That’s a really good sign of growth for us that we reacted at key times in the right way.”

It’s a lot easier to do when the goalie under siege is chill and the stars up front are opportunistic and meshing well.

Surely frustrated their former backstop was doing a number on them once again, the Canucks did their part to implode in the second with six-straight penalties. The most egregious was a Tyler Myers’ post-whistle poke at Matthew Tkachuk’s mush near the end of the second period that opened the door for Lindholm and Gaudreau to combine on the five-on-three buzzer-beater.

“You can see when he’s feeling it a little bit, those are nights he can take a team on his back and carry a team,” said Ward of Gaudreau, who has two goals and four points in three outings.

“Tonight he was feeling it. That pass he made at the end of the second period for the five-on-three goal… what a play. There’s not many guys in this league that can make a play like that.”

Funny, as he made one very similar on opening night that Lindholm also buried on the power play.

The Flames’ six power play goals are their most through the first three games of a season since they tallied eight in 1992.

Yes, it’s early, but the combination of Calgary’s firepower and it’s all-world goaltending will have locals gushing throughout the team’s odd, six-day break between games about its shiny new netminder. The fans sure like the contract.

“We haven’t done anything yet, so I wouldn’t say that,” said Markstrom when told of Lindholm’s stamp of approval for the Six Million Dollar Man.

“It’s obviously a great feeling to be here, and know that I’m going to be here for a long time. There’s a lot of hockey to be played. I’m enjoying every second out there even if it might not show because I’m trying to stay as calm as possible.”

Markstrom finished the night with 25 saves and technically hasn’t been beaten by a Canucks shot yet, as both goals scored against him Monday bounced in off of Flames defencemen.

NOTES: The Flames played the second half of the game without Dillon Dube who left the bench after just one shift in the second period. The budding first liner came up lame with four minutes left in the first period when he reached to try snagging a puck just as it reached Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. The 22-year-old winger immediately turned towards the bench stone-faced, and skated off the ice, only to play one more shift on the night… Monday was the seventh anniversary of the night these two teams squared off with a game-opening line brawl that sent John Tortorella over the edge and towards the Flames dressing room… The Flames next game is a 2 p.m. MT test on Sunday against the Leafs, who visit for two.

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