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Backed by Markstrom’s shining performance, Flames pull off much-needed win


CALGARY — The collective gasp was followed split seconds later by a mighty roar.

Jacob Markstrom had just slid to his left, stacked his pads and reached up with his glove to snare a Mark Scheifele shot destined for the twine.

A save so good it deserves a name.

With his Flames off to its fifth-straight 1-0 lead, the embattled netminder pulled off The Windmill 11 minutes into the first period of a must-win turnaround effort Saturday.

In a game that would later see the Winnipeg Jets battle back twice to tie the affair, Markstrom’s dramatic stop was a momentum-turner for a team looking to snap a seven-game losing skid.

It was one of those saves that had Flames fans buzzing for the next minute, breaking into a ‘Go Flames Go’ chant while waiting in anticipation for video confirmation of what they thought they just saw.

The replay was so impressive, many in the building stood.

Heck, it may have turned around the season.

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“That was a hell of a save, you don’t see that very often,” beamed the game’s surprising second star, Adam Ruzicka.

“It was a big save obviously, got the energy going, the crowd was in it and we just kept building off of that,” added Elias Lindholm.

“They scored a couple minutes later, but obviously Marky played well. It’s always fun to see saves like that, for sure.” 

On a night when the Flames finally found a few offensive heroes to snag a 3-2 win, it was the man between the pipes who drew first star honours.

He didn’t have to be spectacular all night long, as the Flames returned to drastically outshooting the visitors, 35-23.

But when called upon early in a tense game the Flames had to win, he was the Markstrom of last season again.

“That was pretty cool,” chuckled Chris Tanev, who returned from injury.

“Stacked the pads, that’s old school. Ron Hextall, maybe? I don’t know. Definitely in those days. Huge save for us. He made those all night.” 

That was just part of what has been missing through the team’s painful slide.

“I’ve said it before, when you’re on a streak — winning or losing — you need your goalie to be a star,” said coach Darryl Sutter.

“He was a star. That’s what you need.”

What was also needed was for the forwards to make good on their Grade A chances, which the top line did for the first time this season.

With Ruzicka replacing injured Jonathan Huberdeau on the top line for the third game in a row, Ruzicka helped the Flames score first for the fifth game in a row, when his centering pass was redirected through Connor Hellebuyck’s pads by Elias Lindholm three minutes in.

After the Jets tied it 11 minutes later, Lindholm returned the favour by threading a pass to Ruzicka as the youngster drove the net for a slick redirection.

“Obviously he scored tonight, but I like that Lindy likes who he’s playing with,” said Sutter when asked about the Czech youngster. “(Lindholm) is our best forward and we shouldn’t be experimenting with him.”

Read into that one what you will, as there’s still no hint of when Huberdeau will be healthy enough to return.

Throughout the Flames’ lengthy slide the team repeatedly coughed up leads, unable to compliment their impressive starts with mistake-free finishes.

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They turned that around late in the second, right after Trevor Lewis broke a 2-2 tie by corralling a great pass by Mikael Backlund and converting a deft forehand-to-backhand deke while shorthanded.

It stood as the winner, as the team immediately killed off a 5-on-3 disadvantage and returned to executing the type of shut-down hockey this club was built to play.

Having Tanev back in the lineup, alongside Connor Mackey, certainly helped, as the team held Winnipeg to just four shots in the final frame.

Their late success came as they got back to the feisty forechecking that has been their calling card since Sutter arrived.

Their third line of Backlund, Milan Lucic and Andrew Mangiapane had plenty to do with that.

Finally, a fully engaged, complete effort from a team that, quite frankly, finally got what it deserved — a win.

“It’s important to understand how hard it is to win,” said Sutter, who insisted there wasn’t much of a difference between their last few losses and Saturday’s win, other than the two points.

“The reason we hadn’t won lately was we got soft at home. Those three (home) games we had a lot of soft players.”

Not this time, especially in net.

“Usually when that happens you’re a little late — they pass it over and then it’s just desperation and you’re trying to keep the puck out of the net,” smiled Markstrom of the stop he made after Scheifele snapped a cross-ice pass.

“I thought we were finding our game (of late) but couldn’t sustain it for 60 minutes and I wasn’t playing good enough for us to win as well.

“I thought everybody was dialed in and we earned the win today. This is the way we’ve got to play.”

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