With one late, dramatic goal, two historic franchise records had been matched, sending Flames fans home happy for a 10th straight Saddledome victory on Monday.
Someone forgot to tell Darryl Sutter that moments like these are what it is all about.
“I don’t put a lot into 10 in a row, unless they were 10 in a row in the playoffs,” said the coach, who has spent his stellar coaching career being the ultimate killjoy until a Cup is raised.
Calgary hockey fans have every reason to be euphoric over the franchise turnaround that has the club perched four points clear atop the Pacific Division with games in hand.
The hero was, once again, Elias Lindholm, who equalled the club’s eight-game goal-scoring streak with a redirection in the final minute that matched the Flames’ longest winning streak at 10 games.
Not only did it tie the mark held by Gary Roberts and Kent Nilsson established three decades earlier, it equalled Mitch Marner’s mark as the NHL’s longest goal-scoring streak of the season.
Elite company for this season’s Selke frontrunner, whose forte isn’t supposed to be goal-scoring.
“I’m not so sure it isn’t,” said Sutter of his top centre, whose second game-winner in a row was his 23rd of the season.
“Goal-scoring is one thing. There’s lots of guys that score goals but don’t score big goals. Or, at playoff time, don’t get scoring chances.
“He scores big goals, which usually translates into the next part.”
After missing the playoffs last season, Lindholm and the Flames will get a chance to prove themselves this spring, thanks to a 10-game run that has the Flames demonstrating they’re legitimate contenders given how complete their game has been of late.
Dominating visitors for the bulk of this seven-game homestand with a flurry of goals nightly, the Flames have outscored opponents 42-15 during their streak.
Yet, they’ve won their last two outings with the type of tight, defensive outings many would have expected from a Sutter club.
They can play it both ways, especially when the game’s hottest two-way forward is dominating at both ends.
“If there was a guy that’s going to get us the game-winner there he’s the guy I’d bet on,” said Gaudreau, who was asked who might have been the one who was bellowing for him to fire it at the net for the nifty tip by his linemate with 46.3 seconds left.
“I don’t know. Maybe (GM) Brad (Treliving).”
Laughter ensued, representative of just how loose things are in Calgary where the surging squad is four up on Vegas with two games in hand.
Fact is, many in the gap-toothed Family Day crowd had anticipated Lindholm would somehow find the score sheet as his bid to tie the record had been snatched from him earlier in the afternoon when his second-period goal was challenged and eventually waived off as he was conclusively offside as Oliver Kylington pulled up while entering the zone.
“I didn’t see the offside goal until in between periods and then I realized I went offside there,” chuckled Lindholm, gaining league-wide attention after being named the NHL’s first star of the week hours before puck drop.
“Today was a tough game. We didn’t have a lot going on, and not a lot of chances, but stuck with it and found a way, like last game, which is nice.
“Ten in a row is nice. It looks good. We were struggling a little before we started this streak. It was nice to see it go in. Ten in a row feels pretty good.”
That goal was reviewed too, but it was determined earlier that contact with Connor Hellebuyck from Matthew Tkachuk in the crease still gave the goalie time to reset.
So well-rounded is this bunch right now that Jacob Markstrom, the backbone of the team’s success this season, barely gets a mention on his solid, 22-save effort that required every bit of his brilliance for the game to stay 1-1 until the final minute. A Tyler Toffoli empty-netter made it 3-1 to give the Flames the longest sweep of a homestand in NHL history.
“The constants we’re being asked about are the streak and how many goals we’re scoring,” said Sutter, whose club will have a crack at tying the team’s longest home streak Saturday against Minnesota.
“You’ve got to play low scoring games, that’s very simple. For this outfit here, that’s the way it’s going to work.
“Their mantra was ‘out-score the other team.’ Hasn’t worked for several years. You’ve got to be able to shut teams down and take advantage of it and how you do it is getting that identity at home.