Flames' Markstrom returns to submit huge win over Tkachuk, Panthers

Goalie again from harm to make 33 saves in residence victory

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The fingers are simply high-quality.

The one which was fractured on the hand of Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom is best.

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And the numerous center ones raised by followers in a still-smarting salute to Matthew Tkachuk have been working effectively, too.

All totalled, they added as much as Markstrom and the Flames counting a 3-1 win over Tkachuk and the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday night.

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“Feels good,” Markstrom instructed reporters post-game after returning to the lineup from harm Sunday. “Clearly a giant win for us, and it was good to be again in there.

“Nevertheless it’s a giant win, particularly with ‘Chucky’ in there, too. It’s a bit of bit extra particular.”

Certainly, it was Tkachuk’s second return to the Dome since being traded forward of the 2022-23 NHL season in a blockbuster deal that introduced each Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar to the Flames.

However the evening additionally marked the return of Markstrom to the online after a hand harm took him out of the lineup for 2 weeks.

The ’tender got here off harm reserve Sunday, after being damage in observe in early December, and promptly made 33 saves within the victory — helped alongside by backhand objectives from each Martin Pospisil and captain Mikael Backlund — over the visiting Panthers.

Markstrom’s greatest save got here only a minute after Backlund scored the winner — short-handed — early within the third interval, getting his paddle down on a puck that received barely behind him to swat it away earlier than former teammate Sam Bennett might knock residence the unfastened puck. It got here seconds after Tkachuk fed the purpose for the shot that created the near-goal.

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And Markstrom was at it once more within the ultimate two minutes, when he turned away each Tkachuk and Bennett — on back-to-back probabilities within the goal-crease — throughout a power-play flurry by the Panthers to attempt to tie the sport.

Martin Pospisil, Anthony Stolarz
Calgary Flames ahead Martin Pospisil scores in opposition to Florida Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz on the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Picture by Larry MacDougal /The Canadian Press

As a substitute, the goalie and the Flames absorbed the late push and went the opposite method for one more short-handed purpose — this time Blake Coleman being awarded an empty-netter after he was tripped by Brandon Montour on a breakaway. It was Coleman’s tenth on the yr.

“It was good,” mentioned Markstrom of his finger. “Or else I wouldn’t have been on the market if I felt prefer it was going to have an effect on the play.

“You simply attempt to give attention to to not really feel a lot and simply give attention to the puck and never on how your physique feels. In order that was just about all I considered the entire sport. It ended up being simple to dam (the finger) out and give attention to the puck.”

He additionally received huge assist from teammates promoting out and blocking probabilities, particularly late.

“I really feel like that’s nothing new for in the present day’s sport,” Markstrom mentioned. “It’s been like that each one yr. It’s inspiring, and it will get you going, for positive.”

The choice boosted the Flames to inside one sport of .500 at 13-14-5 and — extra importantly — one level again of the ultimate playoff spot within the Western Convention.

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In the meantime, the Cats, who’re firmly entrenched in an Japanese Convention post-season place, dropped to 18-11-2.

Connor Zary, Gustav Forsling
Calgary Flames ahead Connor Zary and Florida Panthers defenceman Gustav Forsling battle on the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Picture by Leah Hennel /Getty Pictures

Pospisil’s purpose began the scoring 8:45 into the competition, when he flipped a slick backhand previous Panthers second-string goalie Anthony Stolarz. The purpose got here off a Flames’ odd-man rush, with Pospisil preserving and scoring far aspect for his fourth of the season.

Thirty seconds earlier than the tip of the primary interval — and with only one second remaining in an influence play — the Panthers answered again on a purpose by Sam Reinhart. The veteran jumped on a rebound in tight — after Tkachuk redirected Sasha Barkov’s shot — and fired the puck excessive over Markstrom.

However no person scored once more till the ultimate body, when Backlund raced away on one other Cats energy play, pulling away from Reinhart and freezing Stolarz with a nifty transfer earlier than shelving a depraved backhand. It was teammate Noah Hanifin with a fast transition go to the fast-breaking Backlund for his seventeenth profession short-handed tally — second-most in staff historical past — and seventh purpose of any form on the marketing campaign.

“We battled laborious, and Marky was nice,” Backlund instructed Sportsnet of his staff and the goalie that missed seven video games with the damaged digit.

“He stood on his head, particularly in that second interval, too,” added the captain. “He saved us within the sport. With out him, it wouldn’t have been a tie sport going into the third. He carried that (second-period efficiency) over into the third. So a giant comeback for him.”

The Flames, now with two straight wins and factors in every of the final 4 video games, subsequent play the host Anaheim Geese on Thursday evening in Southern California (8 p.m., Sportsnet West).

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With Panthers again on the town, Jonathan Huberdeau nonetheless hoping to search out manner out of stoop

‘It’s not straightforward, clearly, not getting factors and stuff however we’re in an excellent stretch as a group in order that’s form of all that issues,’ Huberdeau stated

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Jonathan Huberdeau swears he didn’t have Monday’s recreation in opposition to the Florida Panthers circled on his calendar.

It’s totally different when the Calgary Flames are on the street and he’s again in Florida, the place he spent the primary decade of his NHL profession.

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However a house recreation in opposition to the Panthers on the Saddledome? That solely strikes the needle a lot.

“This recreation, it’s the identical factor, we’re at residence so it doesn’t change something,” Huberdeau stated Sunday. “Enjoying in opposition to acquainted faces however on the finish of the day, it’s a standard recreation. It has extra which means once we play in Florida, that’s extra particular.”

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That could be true, however with the Panthers on the town, it’s inevitable that individuals will wish to revisit the commerce that despatched Matthew Tkachuk to Florida and introduced Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Cole Schwindt again to Calgary.

And inevitably, which means there will likely be a renewed give attention to Huberdeau’s play.

Weegar’s recreation has grown by leaps and bounds since a sluggish begin in Calgary final season. Heading into Sunday’s motion, he’s scored eight instances this season and is now tied for second within the NHL in objectives by defencemen. Solely Vancouver Canucks star Quinn Hughes has extra, with 9.

Nonetheless solely 22 years previous, there’s optimism surrounding Schwindt’s future, too, though he’s enjoying within the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers nowadays.

Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar
Flames Jonathan Huberdeau (L) and MacKenzie Weegar throughout Calgary Flames coaching camp on the Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, September 21, 2023. Jim Wells/Postmedia

However Huberdeau is struggling. He’s solely obtained 4 objectives and 11 assists via 31 video games this season, which places him on tempo for 39 factors over 82 video games. That’s not wherever close to what the Flames hoped for after they signed him to a deal that has him below contract for seven seasons after this one at a value of $10.5 million per yr.

The 30-year-old is working exhausting, however there have been extra valleys than peaks.

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“It’s not straightforward, clearly, not getting factors and stuff however we’re in an excellent stretch as a group in order that’s form of all that issues,” Huberdeau stated. “Clearly, I wish to be a part of it, however proper now it’s simply exhausting.

“On the finish of the day (working exhausting) is all I can do. If it doesn’t go my manner, it doesn’t go my manner. I’m not getting any breaks, however no excuses and clearly I wish to be there for my teammates and stuff. If we’re successful, that’s all that issues on the finish of the day.”

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The truth that Tkachuk thrived in his first season with the Panthers, scoring 40 objectives and including 69 assists and being a Hart Trophy finalist, after which led all of them the best way to the Stanley Cup Finals actually makes the deal look worse for the Flames.

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There’s no animosity from Huberdeau in direction of Tkachuk — who hasn’t been on the identical stage up to now this season — or any of his former teammates, however struggling to search out your recreation whereas the man you had been traded for thrives can’t be straightforward.

And it wasn’t a lot enjoyable watching the Panthers go on their run final yr, both.

Whereas the Flames handled the fallout of a disappointing season, firing head coach Darryl Sutter and seeing GM Brad Treliving depart for a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Panthers had been the toast of the hockey world.

“At that time I used to be like ‘who cares?’ “ Huberdeau stated. “It clearly would have harm in the event that they received, however on the identical time you are feeling unhealthy for the blokes who’re your pals and also you’ve performed with for a very long time and so they have the prospect to win the Stanley Cup for the primary time. It wasn’t straightforward, however on the finish of the day if they might have received they might have received.”

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