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The go-to guys led the charge.
The new guy heard the fans chant his name.
Perhaps, though, the most positive development for the Calgary Flames in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues is that a nearly-forgotten guy found the back of net … again.
Mark Jankowski is officially on a scoring spree. After his 38-game dry-spell, that qualifies as significant news.
Jankowski’s second goal of the season — and second in as many contests — proved to be crucial as the Flames returned from their bye/all-star break and managed to claim a point against the defending Stanley Cup champions from St. Louis.
“We talk about it all the time — structurally, he’s a good player,” said Flames interim head coach Geoff Ward of Jankowski. “He got the monkey off his back in Ottawa, and once you get that monkey off your back, you’re not squeezing the stick as hard around the net and I thought he made a really nice play on his goal.
“So things are upturning for him, and hopefully it continues to go that way.”
The Flames’ top talents provided most of the pop against the Western Conference-leading Blues, with Sean Monahan potting a pair, Matthew Tkachuk contributing a goal and assist and Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano each collecting a pair of helpers.
The hosts were perfect on the power-play until failing to capitalize on a man-advantage in overtime.
Jankowski’s contribution counts as more of a surprise.
The 25-year-old centre certainly isn’t the only guy on the Saddledome payroll who hasn’t produced at the same clip as last season.
Thing is, he hadn’t been producing at all.
Jankowski finally ended a 38-game dry spell in the last outing before a week-long vacation, a mostly meaningless marker except for the fact that it provided a much-needed injection of confidence.
With the Flames and Blues tied as they approached the midway mark of Tuesday’s second period, Sam Bennett plattered a beauty pass for Jankowski from behind the net, and No. 77 fired just inside the post on the blocker-side.
On that sequence, he looked more like the guy who has totalled 31 goals over the past two seasons than the guy who’s been snakebitten for so much of this one.
“To get that weight off my shoulders, I tried to not think about it as much as possible but it’s hard and it weighs on you a bit,” Jankowski said of erasing his goose-egg just before the bye. “I feel confident out there, just making plays with the puck and being hard on the puck. I knew if I kept doing things right, the goals and the points would come. It feels good to help the team. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the win tonight, but we have to keep going.”
The Blues evened up the game early in Tuesday’s third stanza, with Zach Sanford picking the top shelf just moments after Andrew Mangiapane clanked the post at the other end.
The Flames did catch a heck of a break shortly thereafter.
Cam Talbot sprung a leak on what would have been David Perron’s second of the night, but Ryan O’Reilly was offside on that rush and the hosts were successful on a challenge.
Perron and O’Reilly both earned a sliver of revenge by sniping in the shootout.
“There was a little bit of rust, but you expect that coming off an eight-day break,” Ward said after the shootout loss. “But there were an awful lot of good things that we can take out of the game, too, moving forward. For us, that could ultimately be a big point for us down the road.”
Tuesday’s contest was back-and-forth like a teeter-totter.
The locals seemed to be establishing the early momentum but that changed in a blink after a giveaway by blue-liner Oliver Kylington, whose ugly outlet pass set up Alex Steen’s opening strike.
The Flames turned the tables with a pair of power-play tallies.
Fresh off his first all-star appearance, Tkachuk snapped out of a 10-game goal-scoring funk with a blast that glanced off the back of a defender.
Next, Monahan cashed from the slot to hit the 400-point plateau.
The Blues were back in the lead before the intermission, thanks to Perron’s rebound goal and Jaden Schwartz’s one-timer on the PP.
The Flames continued their man-advantage magic in the second. After Gaudreau’s slapper was blocked, Monahan claimed the loose puck and zipped a low shot for his second of the evening.
Monahan and Gaudreau had a new sidekick as the night wore on, with Buddy Robinson — freshly arrived from the AHL’s Stockton Heat — seeing some time with the marquee men.
The 28-year-old Robinson, who played alongside Gaudreau during their high-school days, recorded two shots and two hits in his first NHL appearance since December of 2016.
The new guy in No. 53 was effective on the forecheck and was put to work on the penalty-kill, too.
In the third, there was briefly a ‘Buddy! Buddy!’ chant building in the Saddledome.
“High school, I used to be a skilled guy so there wasn’t much hitting,” Robinson said. “And then Johnny’s dad beat that out of me when I turned 6-foot-6, so I’ll keep forechecking and if they want to keep chanting, that would be great.”
You’ve probably heard what’s next for the Flames — Tkachuk & Co. are headed north for Wednesday’s much-anticipated instalment of the Battle of Alberta at Rogers Place (8 p.m. MT, Sportsnet 360/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
Ice chips : Gaudreau had a pair of all-alone opportunities but was denied on both by Blues netminder Jordan Binnington, who wasn’t fooled by a backhand deke and later stopped a blocker-side shot and the rebound. “He’s a good goaltender. I mean, you watched him in the playoffs last year — he’s a hard goalie to score against,” Gaudreau said post-game. “I thought on the first breakaway, I didn’t sell it enough. The second one, I just missed low. He got a quick blocker on it. Obviously, get better at that and work on that in practice and stuff but as long as I’m getting the looks, I can’t complain about that stuff” … What was working for the Flames on the man-advantage against the Blues? “Shooting power-plays score — we talk about that all the time,” Ward said. “And tonight, we were a shoot-first power-play instead of looking for that extra pass. I thought that made a huge difference for us” … The Flames paid tribute to Kobe Bryant with a pre-game ‘moment of applause,’ with players on both benches banging their sticks on the boards and the fans rising for a standing ovation for the NBA legend who died Sunday in a helicopter crash.
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