Jacob Markstrom keeps momentum going as Flames chase playoff hopes

Mark Giordano recorded a goal and an assist as the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.

Minutes after playing his second game in as many nights, Jacob Markstrom sat at the podium without the aid of medical assistance or an IV.

A small miracle in the eyes of many in the hockey world who have come to somehow believe it’s simply far too taxing to ask a netminder to play twice in 24 hours.

“I feel pretty good,” confirmed Markstrom when asked if he was exhausted after posting back-to-back wins in Toronto and Montreal on consecutive nights.

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Good thing, as the 31-year-old veteran almost certainly has 13 more consecutive starts ahead.

As long as the Calgary Flames are playing meaningful hockey games, you can bet Darryl Sutter will turn to the team’s prized free agent every single night.

He essentially did it with Miikka Kiprusoff in his last go-round in Calgary, he did it with Jonathan Quick in L.A. and he’ll do it again to round out this season.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do given the departure of David Rittich and the magnitude of the games ahead.

“Well, we only have what, 13 games, you look at our schedule, it’s not that hard,” said Sutter, confirming an obvious theory while careful not to commit to anything.

“Even if he did play every game, put it this way, he’d still be the same as what he played last year. That’s not a big deal.”

Given the fact the $36 million man has allowed just three goals in his last three outings, things may get a little more interesting for those Flames fans still clinging to faint hope of a playoff position.

A 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Wednesday gives Markstrom three wins in a row after losing seven of his previous nine.

He followed a shutout on Saturday against Edmonton with wins over two more playoff teams. Or are the Canadiens, who’ve lost four of their last five, a playoff team?

We’ll soon find out.

With the Flames’ fourth win in five tries against the Canadiens, it sure makes for appointment viewing with the Flames slated to face them in four of their next six games, including Friday’s rematch.

The Flames now sit four back of the fourth place Habs, who have three games in hand.

“We have some ground to make up,” Noah Hanifin said. “This division, you’re going to get those head-to-head games where you can really climb back in and this is the team we’re chasing. We know how important these games are.”

It’s a steep climb from where the Flames are, to where they need to be.

But for the first time in a long time, they’re starting to feel like they’re moving in the right direction.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” said Markstrom, who made 26 saves including several big ones early in a close game.

“Obviously so far, it hasn’t been the season we want it to be. The way we played today and the previous two games… we played really unselfish and it’s huge for our team. I personally was in a little bit of a slump that was longer than I wanted. Myself and the team are playing really good right now. We had a big game in Toronto and got away with an overtime win and everybody was feeling good. For me as a goalie, you just have to keep the momentum going.”

He’ll certainly get that chance, especially since the team only has one more set of back-to-backs left, and it’s unfathomable to consider putting backup Louis Domingue in for his first NHL start of the year.

“I don’t mind back-to-backs and the body feels good,” said Markstrom when asked if he was prepared to carry the load.

“I love playing the game and there’s nothing I love more than stepping on the ice with 20 other guys who want to win a hockey game.”

The Flames certainly wanted it Wednesday, playing with a desperation they sure could have used starting ten games earlier.

Prolonged offensive forays by the Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk line marked a first period in which the visitors led 1-0 thanks to a Hanifin point blast.

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Mark Giordano and former teammate Brett Kulak traded second period goals before a rare Josh Leivo finish salted the game away with seven minutes remaining in the third.

On two occasions Markstrom was aided by the iron behind him at critical times.

“Today I got help with the post and that helps too,” he smiled. “When you get one or two bounces in the games, it helps confidence.”

Asked if he was one to kiss or tap his posts like Rittich was famous for, Markstrom chuckled.

“No, not really, just more I’ll thank it inside my helmet,” he said.

“I don’t think I ever tapped it. It feels good for sure when you hear the cling and the red light doesn’t come on. That’s always a good feeling.”

The chance to keep that good feeling going, not to mention the team’s playoff hopes, comes Friday against the same team they’re chasing.

And you-know-who will be getting the starting nod.

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