The Calgary Flames are used to chasing in games. By a matter of fact, they’re third in the entire National Hockey League (trailing Detroit and Los Angeles) in time spent trailing. So it was an unfamiliar sight to see them score first on Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.

And then? They kept scoring. The Flames never trailed in this game, just the eighth time in 40 games that’s happened. Flames interim bench boss Geoff Ward praised his group for their post-holiday performance.

“I thought it was our most complete hockey game in a long time,” said Ward. “I thought the guys did a good job playing the right way. We played from above an awful lot, made it difficult. We were able to protect the middle of the ice real well and our goaltender made stops when he had to.”

The Flames were out-chanced 24-19 and the Oilers held a high-danger chances edge of 8-6… but the Flames held the Oilers to just two high danger chances after the first period. For all of Ward’s postulating about game management lately, the Flames did a good job actually managing things on Friday.

Did the Flames play a perfect game? Nope. But they went into a building that they’ve had trouble winning in and grabbed hold of the game early. For a team that’s allowed many opponents to creep back into games, the Flames refused to do that against the Oilers.

We’ll see if this is a one-off or a sign of things to come.

The bottom line on the top line

Back when Jarome Iginla was playing with the Flames, the line hierarchy was simple: whichever line #12 was playing on was the top line. Well, both in terms of performance and importance, we’re probably approaching a situation where whatever line Matthew Tkachuk is on should be considered the top line.

But credit where it’s due: Andrew Mangiapane, a sixth round pick snagged by the Flames on his second time through the NHL Draft, was a difference-maker for the Flames. He had three points in this game:

  1. An even strength goal just 11 seconds into the game that he scored by simply going to the net.
  2. A primary assist on the game-winning goal that he set up by out-muscling Darnell Nurse – who has five inches and 37 pounds on Mangiapane – and then feeding Tkachuk in the slot.
  3. A primary assist on the fourth goal that he set up by finding Lindholm walking into the offensive zone as the trailing man.

As you can guess, Ward was happy with #88.

I thought he had a big impact on the game tonight. You can see his confidence is growing on a daily basis, and it sure helps when you’re playing with two players like Matthew and Elias that are real solid. And so Mangy can just play to his strengths and I think now they’re starting to find some good chemistry. The points weren’t coming early, but lately they have been.