CALGARY — Blake Coleman referred to the evening’s heroes as The Big Boys.
On a team as deep as his Calgary Flames, he may want to be a little more specific.
Was it a tip of the hat to the beefy bunch on the fourth line who drew four straight penalties in the second period to start turning a 2-0 deficit around?
Or was it a nod to the lads with the biggest wallets, who translated those power plays into a 2-2 game on Tuesday?
Truth is, they were all big, as there were no passengers in the Flames’ third-straight win to open the season against a Murderer’s Row of Western Conference elite.
As if tidy wins against Colorado and Edmonton weren’t impressive enough, the Flames’ latest triumph saw the hosts overcome an early 2-0 deficit against an undefeated Vegas squad that saw Logan Thompson channeling his inner Marc-Andre Fleury until the midway point when, well, The Big Boys, finally solved him en route to a 3-2 win.
It started with the beef drawing four straight penalties, followed by the steak.
“I thought tonight was a really good example of showing our depth, but to our big boys’ credit they delivered some big power-play goals and scored when they needed to,” said Coleman of a power-play unit that saw Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli score within three minutes of one another midway through the second period (after previously having a Lindholm power-play goal waved off due to a goalie interference challenge).
“(Fourth-liners) Ritch (Brett Ritchie, Looch (Milan Lucic) and Kev (Kevin Rooney) had a heck of a night, a big reason why we were in the game in the second, drawing a bunch of penalties on plays. They’re a big reason we won tonight.”
Indeed, experience played a considerable role in turning the tide on a game that saw the Flames down 1-0 four minutes in on a fluttering shot by William Carrier that Jacob Markstrom may cite as his worst as a Flame.
A Brett Howden redirection late in the first, combined with several spectacular saves by Thompson, set the stage for a second period in which the Flames managed to draw six consecutive penalties. Four were from the fourth line, which is a testament to the team’s checking mentality.
“They should have had assists on the power-play goals … because they carried those guys around the power play for the first half of the game,” smiled Darryl Sutter of the fourth line’s contribution to the win.
“They created momentum for us and that’s how we came back in the game,” added Jonathan Huberdeau, who had two assists in the win.
“The first two lines weren’t going too well, and then these guys came in and got us going.”
To be fair, Nazem Kadri’s line, with Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube, created several great scoring chances in the first, as did the top trio with Huberdeau, Lindholm and Toffoli.
However, it wasn’t until they got on the man advantage they finally broke through.
From there, it was third-liners Coleman and Mikael Backlund who starred in a final frame full of great pressure, which included a short-handed breakaway attempt by the former before the latter converted a pass from his linemate that stood as the winner with five minutes remaining.
“When we’re on we’re a really good team, but we still haven’t played a full 60,” said Backlund, who shoveled Coleman’s pass in for the winner while driving to the top of the crease.
“We had a sloppy first, but took charge in the second and were the best team from there.
“(The fourth line) has been having a great start for us. They (Ritchie) scored the first goal of the year, and they had a great night in Edmonton, and tonight. They’ve been important for us. When everybody chips in that’s when we’re at our best.”
“We had to use everybody, that’s for sure,” added Sutter, who said before the game that anyone in the west challenging for the Cup this year will have to go through Vegas.
The depth, experience, size and skill Brad Treliving has assembled has done well to beat three juggernauts out of the gate, while still waiting for the top line to find its way at 5-on-5.
On Tuesday, all but three Flames had shots on goal in yet another showcase of just how dangerous this team can be from top to bottom, leaving them as one of four undefeated teams left.
“It’s early, I don’t read too much into Game 3 of the year,” said Coleman, who learned all about building a contender in Tampa.
“It’s a good start. You can’t start any better statistically, but every guy in this room feels they have another level to get to, and more to add to this team to really push to be a contender.
“While these are nice little measuring stick games now, they’re going to be irrelevant (come) Game 60 as things will look much different.”
You can bet the typically understated Sutter agrees.
“One is the Stanley Cup champion and the other two are teams you know are going to be there in the end,” said Sutter of his team’s wins.
“It’s hard to make the playoffs. We’re just going one game at a time and trying to correct some flaws in our game.”