As just the 11th Flames player to record five assists in a game, Matthew Tkachuk was well aware he’d be the talk of the town the next few days.
As for what his father might have to say about the 7-1 beatdown his son’s team laid on the Blues club Keith works for, Matthew wasn’t so sure.
“Maybe he went to bed early and I won’t even get a text,” chuckled the Flames winger, well aware Keith would have watched every minute of his son’s memorable outing.
“Doesn’t matter the team he works for, he’s obviously me and my brother’s biggest fan, and great mentor. Not only him, but my linemates and teammates know how much I want to win against those guys, my hometown team, with a lot of people watching.”
This one clearly meant a lot to Tkachuk for so many more reasons than that, as the Flames sorely needed a solid rebound from Saturday’s gut-wrenching cough-up in Edmonton.
After all, it’s time for the Flames to cash in more regularly on the large shot discrepancies they’ve racked up against opponents this season.
Putting on a passing clinic that saw him set up Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm as part of a 10-point outburst for the top trio, Tkachuk reminded everyone once again he’s every bit a playmaker as he is a finisher, a grinder and a leader.
With Gaudreau’s three assist, four-point night, the duo combined for nine points, to steal the headline on a night 12 different Flames posted points.
“I think the thing we’re happiest in the locker room is we didn’t give them much and they got a goal early and I feel it’s one of the first times this year we’ve given up the first goal and come back and won,” said Tkachuk when asked what he hoped fans would be talking about following the team’s biggest margin of victory this year.
“Hopefully they talk about that, and we’ve got five games left so we need to win most of them if we want to be in a playoff spot come the all-star game. Hopefully they won’t talk about us.”
The last three Flames with five helpers were Sean Monahan (2018), Dion Phaneuf (2007) and Al MacInnis (1994). Tkachuk’s evening fell one assist shy of the franchise record of six held by Guy Chouinard and Gary Suter.
Tkachuk’s setup of Gaudreau’s goal late in the second moved the pair into a tie with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetzov as the league’s second-most prolific scoring duos.
The 27 goals they’ve combined for are just two behind Edmonton’s top twosome.
In their last ten games alone, Tkachuk and Gaudreau have combined for an incredible 39 points.
Don’t blame them for the team’s 4-6 record over that span.
“I’ve said it several times over the course of the year, that line carries our team for the most part,” said Darryl Sutter.
“We need to get some more out of everybody in order to be successful.”
On Monday they did.
Less than a minute after Tyler Bozak opened the scoring for a red-hot Blues team coming off a win in Vancouver one night earlier, Nikita Zadorov responded with a top shelf snipe that was followed up with a Chris Tanev finish on a brilliant Gaudreau pass.
From there, the big boys took over with Lindholm and Sean Monahan converting on the power play on an evening in which the Flames scored four in the second period of a game they outshot the visitors 35-9 after two.
Unlike Saturday’s loss in Edmonton where they lost despite throwing 47 shots at Mikko Kosikinen, the Flames converted on a good chunk of their 48 shots, chasing Jordan Binnington after two, thanks to late second period goals by Blake Coleman and Adam Ruzicka.
“It seemed like tonight was one of those games where one of us would get the puck and the other two were working for space and getting open,” said Tkachuk of a line that has helped him accrue 20 points his last ten games.
“Some nice plays out there. Just a lot of time in their zone. Even if you’re not scoring you want to be in their zone creating as many chances as we did tonight. I thought the power play was good as well and was a big part of that.”
The win over the west’s second-place team comes six days after the team pounded first-place Florida, reminding everyone that when the team is opportunistic while playing its checking game, it is capable of running with the NHL’s big boys.
The disjointed schedule hasn’t allowed them to prove that with any regularity, which could change as the team embarks on a stretch that will see the Flames play 45 games in the next 95 days.
Plenty of time for Tkachuk and Gaudreau to continue moving up the ranks as top-20 scorers in the league.
Asked if he thought Tkachuk’s playmaking skills were underrated, Sutter balked.
“I don’t think so – Matthew has got great vision when he’s got the puck,” said Sutter of the converted right winger.
“Playing on his off wing this year gives him a whole different dynamic of what he can see and what he can do, and he’s making the most of it.”
The Flames visit Columbus Wednesday and St. Louis Thursday, when Matthew can find out exactly what pops thought of his special night.