With Jonathan Huberdeau benched, Calgary roared back with three unanswered goals in the third period for a spirited come-from-behind victory on Tuesday night.
Nazem Kadri set up Blake Coleman’s game-winner before salting the game away with an empty netter to lead the Flames to a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators, which gives Calgary consecutive wins for the first time this season.
“It’s two in a row, you can see the confidence growing in guys and in the group and the way we’re playing,” said Coleman. “Confidence is a big thing in this league, and it makes a big difference, and when you start to get that collective confidence, that’s when teams get dangerous.”
Down 2-1 after 40 minutes, Calgary tied it at 4:45 of the third. Shortly after Yegor Sharangovich was stopped on a great setup in front by Kadri, he set up Noah Hanifin breaking in from the blue line and he whipped a 30-foot wrist shot into the top corner.
Less than two minutes later, Coleman gave Calgary its first lead. Holding onto the puck on a two-on-one with Connor Zary, he elected to shoot and wristed the puck high over Juuse Saros’ glove.
“Things are definitely heading in the right direction,” said Hanifin. “The way we played tonight, that’s a complete game and for our team, that’s the way we need to play. I thought we stuck with it and, fortunately in the third period, we started to take over.”
For all of the third period, Huberdeau sat at the first right end of the players’ bench.
“I thought Huby had an off night and when we went into the third period, we wanted to try to get a little bit more flow and we went with the guys we felt were rolling. That’s pretty much all it came down to,” said Flames coach Ryan Huska. “It’s not anything anybody wants to go through ever, but at times, it’s gonna happen, you’re not gonna have an A-plus game every night.”
Huberdeau remained animated on the bench, standing up and tapping his stick on the bench for big plays and leading the fist-bumps as players skated by after the goals.
“We score the go-ahead goal, we get those blocks down the stretch, he’s celebrating, he’s excited for the team. Team guy through and through,” said Coleman. “It’s our job to lift each other up in times when it’s not going well and we’re gonna do that for him and we know that he’s gonna be lifting us up as the year goes on.”
In the first year of an eight-year, US$84 million deal, Huberdeau is off to a disappointing start with just six points (two goals, four assists) in 12 games. He has only two assists in his last eight games.
“Huby’s the man, he’s good, he’s the most positive guy I’ve been around. He’s a hell of a player, he’s a hell of a person. It’s fine, it’s one period of his life, out of his career, it’s not a big deal,” said Dillon Dube, whose goal at 15:06 of the second ignited the Flames’ rally.
“I don’t think anyone’s too worried about it. I don’t think we should be. He works his ass off every day. Give him credit, he’ll be here tomorrow with a smile on his face.”
Calgary (4-7-1) now heads out on a three-game road trip.
Michael McCarron and Kiefer Sherwood scored for the Predators (5-7-0), who have lost three of their last four.
“We’re playing with fire. To a man, we weren’t good enough. We didn’t win the battles. We weren’t sharp enough,” Sherwood said. “It’s just a matter of time when you play like that. You can’t hold on to a lead in this league when you’re just on your back foot.”
Jacob Markstrom made 17 stops to snap a personal seven-game winless skid. He hadn’t won since he was in net for Calgary’s victory in its season opener. He’s 2-6-1.
The much busier Saros had 35 saves in the loss. His record falls to 4-6-0.
Calgary trailed 2-0 after the first period, despite carrying the play for most of the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the visitors 17-6.
“In the first period, we were lucky to come out of the period up 2-0,” said McCarron. “I think they had a lot of great chances. Juice stood on his head for us the whole night. At the end of the day we just gave up too many Grade As against him.”
Nashville opened the scoring at 4:35 when McCarron scored his first goal of the season by finishing off a slick passing sequence with Liam Foudy and started by defenceman Marc Del Gaizo in his second NHL game.
With the Flames pushing, the Predators counter punched again at 14:34, with Sherwood finishing off a perfectly executed 2-on-0 with Luke Evangelista.
Andrew Mangiapane, one goal shy of 100 goals for his career, did not play as he served his one-game suspension for his cross-check to the neck of Jared McCann of the Seattle Kraken.
The Flames welcomed back Adam Ruzicka (shoulder) to the lineup after he missed four games. He opened the game centring the fourth line between AJ Greer and Walker Duehr, but moved up into the top nine in the second period.
Predators: Wrap up their five-game road trip in Winnipeg on Thursday when they face the Jets.
Flames: Take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday to begin a three-game Eastern road swing.