The Calgary Flames have clawed their way back into the hunt for a playoff berth.
As the Flames open a six-game homestand against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, they are well aware it is a golden opportunity to get on a roll that will boost their playoff hopes.
“We’re in a spot where we’re close (to the final playoff spot) and we have to keep pushing, so every point that’s on the table is important for us right now,” coach Ryan Huska said.
The Flames return home riding a three-game winning streak, capped by an impressive 3-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
Calgary opened that two-game trip with an impressive 6-2 win over the Coyotes two days before that, a game in which the Flames scored four goals in the first period and never looked back.
While the Flames look for their first four-game winning streak of the season, they are well aware of the importance of racking up victories.
“We can’t go .500 anymore,” said goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who has backstopped his team to all three wins in the recent run and shined in those games.
“To make up ground and catch teams, we’ve got to string a few together. This was a good trip and we’ve got to go home and charge the batteries and then get back to work.”
The Coyotes followed that loss to the Flames by blasting the Minnesota Wild 6-0 on Saturday to open a three-game road trip.
The Coyotes have won two of three games but are also on a 2-4-0 skid that has seen them fall out of a Western Conference wild-card position and actually stand one point behind the Flames, albeit with two games in hand.
“I think the boys had the right mindset,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “That was a really good start. After the first period, I think we played the right way. We had urgency defensively. We’re stingy defensively. I think we played a solid three periods.”
With a 38-save performance against the Wild, Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram recorded his NHL-leading fifth shutout of the season.
The victory was also a much-needed offensive breakout for Arizona, which scored more than two goals only once in six games before the Minnesota clash.
Leading the way was Minnesota product Nick Bjugstad, who broke a 16-game goal drought with his second career hat trick.
“It had been a while since I’d scored (Dec. 4), so that first one felt really good. … sometimes it just goes in for you. This was one of those nights,” Bjugstad said.
Bjugstad’s performance also displayed an important part of the game plan for the Coyotes and any other team. He fired seven shots on goal, one shy of his career best in a game.
“The more shots, obviously, the better,” Bjugstad said. “You want to create volume and I’ve been in situations where I have been in some droughts, and I just tried to stay even keeled through that and know eventually it’s going to go in.”
–Field Level Media
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