Markstrom crucial to Flames’ success in first win of season and beyond

Jacob Markstrom made 33 saves for the shutout while Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk found the back of the net as the Calgary Flames blanked the Detroit Red Wings 3-0.

Hours before his Flames kicked off their five-game road assignment, Darryl Sutter insisted his team needed better goaltending and penalty killing.

On Thursday his club got both, lightening the mood for a team finally able to hold on for its first win of the season.

And the man chiefly responsible for a 3-0 win in Detroit admitted afterward he was highly motivated following his early showings.

“It was an important game, just because we started the season with two losses and we let the Anaheim game slip away and I had a lot to do with that,” said Jacob Markstrom, following his ninth career shutout.

“I was not happy with my performance last game. It was important for me to (bounce back). It was a big win for us, and for me personally.”

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It’s never been a secret that if the Flames are to be successful this season it will have to be on the back of the team’s Six Million Dollar Man.

He was full value in the second period when the Flames, clinging to a 2-0 lead, were outshot 14-4 by a speedy, young Wings club that had yet to lose at home.

Enter the penalty kill, which had struggled in the opening two losses when it surrendered three goals.

The Flames killed two Detroit power plays in the second to help the club weather the storm, followed by a third kill in the opening minute of the third.

So efficient were the Flames while shorthanded, Markstrom only had to make one of his 33 saves while down a man.

UP FRONT

Scoring just four goals on 90 shots in their first two games, the Flames stressed the importance of creating traffic in front of the net and capitalizing in tight.

Mission accomplished, as first period goals by Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane both came from the exact same spot – a few feet in front of the blue paint.

Lindholm’s snipe, his third in as many games, was a brilliant conversion of a Johnny Gaudreau centering pass midway through the opening period.

Mangiapane’s goal came four minutes later on a rebound.

“I think the last couple games we’ve been getting shots and good looks, but not second and third shots,” said Mangiapane.

“Tonight we went to the net. I don’t think we were too happy about the first two games, so this game we wanted to come out and win a game and get things rolling for us.”

Both first-period goals came after Milan Lucic turned the tide with a fight versus Givani Smith that seemed to settle the Flames down somewhat after a shaky start.

“After Looch’s fight I thought we really woke up, so good job by him,” said Markstrom.

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In his season debut as the team’s second-line centre, Dillon Dube was one of the best Flames forwards, using his speed to gain the offensive zone and set up Mangiapane’s strike.

He also used his wheels to create a great scoring chance while shorthanded, which resulted in a Detroit penalty drawn by Mangiapane’s speed.

Tyler Pitlick, who missed the first two games after suffering a lower-body injury early in training camp, made his season debut and was most notable when using his big frame to bowl over Gustav Lindstrom.

Gaudreau built on his solid start with two assists, including a good defensive play in his own zone that allowed Matthew Tkachuk to seal the win by scoring into an empty net.

AT THE BACK

There won’t be many nights when the team’s top point-getter is Erik Gudbranson, but the truth is the man who had two assists was also one of the best defenders.

On a third pairing with Juuso Valimaki that will be watched closely when deployed, the 29-year-old played 18:45, which included a team-high three-and-a-half minutes killing penalties.

“They played a real balanced game,” said Sutter of a blue line corps that played without Nikita Zadorov. “I don’t think anybody stood out or did anything special.”

We’ll disagree, as Gudbranson was rock solid.

Oliver Kylington played alongside Chris Tanev and made a couple plays in the offensive zone that demonstrated his increased confidence.

“The defence kept the rebounds away from them and were making my job easy to see the puck,” said Markstrom.

The Flames play in Washington at 11 a.m. MT Saturday.

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