Since the All-Star break, the Calgary Flames have been making a strong case for themselves as wildcard contenders for the playoffs this year, despite losing arguably their best center and a top penalty killer in, Elias Lindholm, to Vancouver via trade. Fast checking, hard work, and gritty play have been the recipe for the Flames since returning to play, and that continued into Saturday’s game against an Islanders team that had been looking to surge forward in the standings, winning their last two since the break. With new head coach Patrick Roy going 3-2-1 since his hiring, this New York team was playing motivated hockey. Semyon Varlamov was also playing in his 600th NHL game, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough motivation for him or his squad to pull off the win this afternoon.
The start of the game was a bit messy for both sides, with loose passes and messy plays being haphazardly thrown together. But it only took until 16:14 in the first for Mackenzie Weegar to score his 13th of the season, an unassuming play that snuck by Varlamov to make it 1-0 for the Flames. Jacob Markstrom started the rush with a beautiful pass to Weegar, who walked into the Islanders’ zone easily. Blake Coleman also got his 22nd assist of the season on the goal. This goal also tied Weegar for most goals by a defenseman this season, with Cale Makar and Rhasmus Dhalin. From this point, it looked as though the Flames were the much better team, putting heavy pressure on in the New York zone, working the defense and goalie to make a mistake. They maintained this momentum until 14 minutes into the period when a wild bounce off of Tanev went right to the Isles player, who shot it into the net. But after a coach’s challenge for offside by Ryan Huska, the goal was called back for offside. The Islanders maintained momentum from this and put pressure on the Flames and Jacob Markstrom with sharp shots and quick plays, but he held strong and kept the door shut. In the dying seconds of the first, Chris Tanev had a sneaky shot that almost snuck its way into the net, but Varlamov stayed steady, and the first period ended with the Flames leading 1-0.
The second period started much like the first, slightly hectic and full of reckless attempts, which ended up[ leading to a penalty being drawn by Pospisil against Pelech for tripping, sending the Flames to the first power play of the afternoon. The PP had been struggling for the Flames until the beginning of the second half of the season, sitting at pitiful 28th overall. However, the Islanders’ penalty kill has been much worse, bringing up the rear in 32nd in the league, and tonight was no different for them, as Huberdeau scored with 8:38 left in the second, and putting the Flames up 2-1, with assists to Sharangovich (16) and Hanifin (20). Less than five minutes later, Mackenzie Weegar struck again for his 14th of the season, which put him in the lead for defensive scoring. Duehr (4) and Rooney (1) assisted on the play, with a gorgeous feed from Rooney to Weegar from behind the net. Rooney has been an impactful player since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a good portion of the season.
It took until the third for the Islanders to strike back against the Flames, with Brock Nelson scoring his 22nd goal, which led the Isles’, at the 16:00 minute mark. Noah Dobson (47) and Kyle Palmieri (17) assisted on the goal, which swung the momentum that the Calgary Flames had been building and playing off of to favor New York. They began applying intense pressure to Markstrom, peppering him with shots from all over the ice; but the Swedish netminder held strong against the onslaught. A too-many-men penalty was called against Calgary and was served by Connor Zary, but it held no results for the islanders, who had the third-best power play in the league coming into today’s game. The Flames were tied for 11th on the penalty kill. Patrick Roy decided to pull Varlomov with 4:11 left in the third period, and it didn’t take long for the flames to pounce on the opportunity not once but twice with empty net goals from Blake Coleman (21) with 4:01 left, and Mackenzie Weegar (15) with 21.5 left in the third. Weegar’s goal was all that was needed to complete his first career hat trick. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored with the empty net man advantage, but it proved fruitless, as Markstrom shut the door on the Islanders, the final score being 5-2 in favor of the visiting team. The Flames have won all three games on their road trip and are 4-0. Jonathan Huberdeau has 15 points in the last 15 games.
The Flames next tilt is against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday, February 12th.