Flames welcome reeling Devils hoping own slump is over
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Six goals in one game. Sure, you can call that a breakout.
Especially for a Calgary Flames team that managed only five during a four-game losing skid that preceded Sunday night's fireworks in a 6-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
But as the home stretch begins to the end of the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Flames can't assume all is well.
"For me, it's about the process we're going through," Flames head coach Bill Peters said after his team's Vegas victory. "And it's about getting our game back. We took a step here (Sunday) and we got to take another step Tuesday."
The Flames are in a dogfight with the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in both the Western Conference and Pacific Division. They have a golden chance to net a second consecutive win when they play host to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
"If you asked every guy to give their honest answer, we don't want to be trailing anybody," forward Matthew Tkachuk admitted. "We want to win the division. We don't want to finish second, third or fourth. You never want to be chasing teams. And I think that was a little extra motivation (against the Golden Knights)."
Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik -- known in Calgary as the 3M Line -- combined for five goals and 11 points against Vegas. Considering how ice cold the top trio of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm has gone, that kind of scoring depth is a godsend.
"I wouldn't say we've been spectacular as of late," Tkachuk said. "So we needed a big night and we needed to help wherever we could to get the team back in the win column. Our line knows we can score, so we take it hard when we're not putting the puck in the net and helping the team that way. Everybody takes it hard. Everybody on the team knows they can score. So it's nice that we got some to go in tonight and won the game."
However, everybody knows the Flames' fortunes will require the number-one line finding a form that's been missing since the All-Star break. If you're looking for a positive sign, Gaudreau alone fired nine shots on goal on Sunday, even if none of them found the mark.
"It's not easy when you go through slumps as a whole team," Backlund said. "It's tough and frustrating for everyone. Usually it's one guy here and there who goes through slumps but when the whole team does, it's hard to win, for sure. It's hard on the group."
The Devils are coming off a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, their sixth consecutive defeat (0-5-1) in their latest rough run. Sitting 20 points out of a playoff spot with 13 games remaining, it's likely they'll be eliminated from playoff contention before their sojourn west -- which also includes stops in Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado -- is over.
At this point, the best to hope is for development of young players to be all the better next season.
"We continue to fight and battle and play for each other hard," captain Andy Greene said. "If we can play just as hard as we play in the D-zone in the offensive zone I think it will be huge for us."
Mackenzie Blackwood is slated to start in goal for the Devils.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 11, 2019