A change that could ultimately mean the lights go out for a beaten Winnipeg Jets club that was outplayed in Tuesday’s Game 3 by a Flames team who went back in time to remind everyone why they were enough good to win the West last regular season.
Tied 1-1 in the series and after 20 minutes of play the Flames pieced together a seven-minute stanza that saw relentless pressure from its first three rows and a power play that resulted in four goals.
One was eventually swept away by a challenge, but at the end of their whirlwind the Flames were on course for a dominant 6-2 victory that had them on the verge of knocking out a team for the first time in five. years.
It was, for those who have forgotten, the exact moment when everything fell apart for the Calgary Flames’ final playoffs, losing by an identical 6-2 score to Colorado and getting a five-point punt.
“I think the best way to learn how to win right now is through that,” said Matthew Tkachuk, whose goal was a big part of the Flames’ frenzy in the second period.
“I had two quick outings and in my first two playoffs that I was in we were 1-8. And last year, for example, we were on our high horse after Game 1. They took the momentum from Game 2 and never gave it back. So the momentum changed after the last game. The Jets came out with a big push and played really well and deserved to win. It was up to us to respond to the push from the last game and get back into the series.
The first response came 18 seconds after the Jets opened the scoring, when Elias Lindholm redirected the first of the Flames’ three power play scorers that day. Resilient.
Fans waited all year after five minutes of play when Andrew Mangiapane’s steal from Connor Hellebuyck behind the net fed Mikael Backlund to an easy finish that sparked an assault.
A minute later, a goal from Milan Lucic was disallowed due to goalkeeper interference by Dillon Dube, followed by a power-play goal from Sean Monahan a minute later.
No more bounce.
Andrew Copp and Tkachuk traded goals within minutes for a 4-2 lead as the Flames were easily protected from there.
“In the second I thought we had taken a big step and parted ways with the Jets,” said Backlund, whose line with Tkachuk and Mangiapane dominated all night, accumulating five points and 11 shots.
“I thought we had taken matters into our own hands. Pretty same first period, and I felt everyone wanted to take charge then. We sat down more in Game 2 and today we returned to the aggressive mindset we had in Game 1.
The top line added seven runs and nine shots as Lindholm, Gaudreau and Monahan did most of their damage with the extra man.
Lucic ultimately scored one that relied on the power play, capping a third row effort that included plenty of penalties, including a hit on Mathieu Perreault that knocked him out of the game, joining Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine and Mason Appleton on the sidelines.
The effort was so complete that Geoff Ward couldn’t name his best skater when in a rush.
“I thought our goalie was our best player,” said Ward, whose club didn’t need a lot of big saves from a quietly efficient Cam Talbot, who made 33 saves.
“Take a look at our first two lines, they were all about to score. I thought our score was balanced across our roster. I have to say that all of our key people have been great contributors to us today. So it’s hard for me to choose one. We certainly did in committee today.
Tkachuk added, “The guys expected to score goals, the guys expected to make good plays, and the guy expected to make the saves made them.
Nothing was missing, which speaks volumes for a team known for failing to elevate their game when it matters most.
Tuesday’s effort was as good as any team put together in this long, crazy season.
It was eerily reminiscent of the team that dominated the West with 107 points last year – a club that could roll with any adversity scoring with anyone, recovering from everything and stopping almost everything.
Unlike those times last year, on that day there would be no adversity – just domination.