The Calgary Flames have won all but one of their last five games since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, charting their fourth against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
Calgary won the contest 4-3, handing Toronto their third straight loss and sixth defeat in their last seven games.
The Flames’ only loss since the Sutter takeover was against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday, a 7-3 drubbing. Calgary didn’t panic, however, and they showed up to play Friday.
“I thought we played really well, checked well, and gave up very little odd-man rushes,” Sutter said. “It was not a track-meet game at all. We have a team that can play together, and if we just eliminate little mistakes in our game and stay out of the penalty box, we can play with them.”
The Flames improved to 15-13-3, a record that still puts them second from last in the North Division but 10 points ahead of the Ottawa Senators and a single point behind the Vancouver Canucks. There’s enough room in the division for almost anyone to challenge for a playoff spot.
Mark Giordano scored the game-winner on Friday, while Matthew Tkachuk, Derek Ryan, and Christopher Tanev also found twine. Rasmus Andersson had two helpers, while goalie Jacob Markstrom made 24 saves.
Mitch Marner, Jason Spezza, and Alexander Kerfoot scored for Toronto, while goalie Frederik Andersen stopped 14 of Calgary’s 18 shots.
The Maple Leafs saw the return of Wayne Simmonds to the lineup. He missed 18 games thanks to a broken wrist. Alex Galchenyuk made his Toronto debut.
But the Flames carried the day, in large part because they took advantage of Andersen’s lacklustre run and because they kept things simple.
The Toronto netminder is now 1-5-0, with a dismal 3.84 goals against average and a .862 save percentage.
Calgary also managed to go three for three on the penalty kill and that became critical, especially after the Flames took two penalties in the final frame.
“We understand what kind of team they are and we didn’t give the lead away,” Sutter said. “Toronto played hard for that, and we played hard too.”
The Flames and Maple Leafs will tangle again Saturday before Calgary heads off for two against the Senators, followed by three against the Winnipeg Jets.
Pic: Jeff McIntosh/CP