The Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs met Thursday night in Cowtown, each team boasting new coaches and new narratives this December.
When the dust cleared at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames stood tall with the 4-2 victory and the Maple Leafs were left holding the proverbial bag.
The game was vital as a sort of Canadian proving ground, the kind of game that pits West against East and the kind of game that makes hockey fans stand up and take notice.
The Flames have been surging under new head coach Geoff Ward, putting the days of Bill Peters behind them in decisive fashion. They’re now without a loss in the seven games since the new guy took over and Thursday’s victory tossed them into a tie with their provincial rivals for second in the Pacific Division.
Toronto has likewise been rejuvenated under new head coach Sheldon Keefe, with the Mike Babcock era likewise in the rearview.
The Maple Leafs looked good early Thursday, seemingly set to continue their momentum after Tuesday’s win over the Canucks. They jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first two periods, but things tumbled well apart in the final frame.
The Flames managed three goals in the first 2:49 of the third period and took the lead for good, with Johnny Gaudreau at last showing flashes of brilliance. He scored twice in that span, with Michael Frolik scoring his fourth of the season as well. Travis Hamonic had the first period marker for Calgary.
John Tavares and Mitch Marner had the goals for Toronto.
Calgary goalie David Rittich held his club in it, especially during a two-man advantage for the visitors that saw him make lightning saves on Tavares. The Flames’ netminder is now 15-7-4 this season, while the team is 5-11-2 when trailing after two.
“I’m most proud of how the guys have come together,” Ward said after the game. “They stick up for each other, they play for one another, and we’re really starting to see a nice synergy in our team, and right now I’m happy for the guys.”
Calgary does have a lot to be proud of at this point and time and they’re putting themselves together at the right time. They’ve got Carolina at home Saturday, while the Maple Leafs venture to Edmonton for a Saturday showdown to close out their road swing.
Photo credit: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images