It’s been a rapid decline offensively for Jonathan Huberdeau since finishing tied for second in league scoring two seasons ago, but he’s hoping a big goal on Thursday night will help turn things around.
Huberdeau ended an 11-game scoring drought and also added an assist to lead the Calgary Flames to a 5-2 win over the red-hot Vancouver Canucks.
“Obviously, it felt good. It’s been a while,” said Huberdeau, who signed a US$84-million, eight-year extension two summers ago after he was acquired in a trade with Florida. “It was good to finally get a goal and a big win for us.”
The biggest ovation – and celebration – of the night came 5:53 into the third period when Huberdeau got a pass from Mikael Backlund and zipped a shot under the crossbar to make it 4-1. As he pumped his arms and the Saddledome crowd rose to its feet, Backlund gave Huberdeau a big hug.
“I take it in, I think it’s nice to get the support from the crowd. They’ve been patient,” said Huberdeau.
Huberdeau joined the Flames after a career-best 115-point season with the Panthers. His output fell to 55 points last season and he entered Thursday’s game with just seven points in 15 games.
“We have great fans here and what they recognize is hard work and you can see that from him tonight,” said Flames coach Ryan Huska. “So when he gets rewarded, it was nice. It goes a long way for a player that is really working to find his way. So we’re all happy for him.”
Huberdeau’s goal was the culmination of four straight goals for the home side who roared back from a 1-0 deficit.
“His attitude coming to the rink, every day he’s positive and tries to get better,” Dube said of Huberdeau. “He’s putting in his work, and it’s nice that he gets rewarded. It was awesome for him.”
Calgary tied it 1-1 at 17:53 of the first when Mackenzie Weegar ripped a 40-foot wrist shot over Casey DeSmith’s blocker.
After Dillon Dube gave Calgary its first lead at 10:49 of the second, Hanifin’s goal in the final minute of the period made it 3-1 headed to the third.
“I think we were tired. It caught up to us,” said Canucks coach Rick Tocchet. “The second half of the game, listen, they didn’t quit. I got no problem. But you’ve got to learn how to play tired. You’ve got to manage the puck a little more.”
The Canucks were playing the second game of a back-to-back.
“It’s easy to say but keep it simple, I think,” said Nils Hoglander, who scored for Vancouver. “We had a lot of turnovers today. We learn and do better next game.”
Elias Pettersson also scored for the Canucks (12-4-1), who lost for just the second time in nine games. Vancouver blew an opportunity to leapfrog the idle Boston Bruins and move into first place in the league’s overall standings.
Vancouver defenceman Filip Hronek had his 11-game point streak come to an end. Calgary (6-8-2) is 4-1-1 in its last six games after ending a six-game losing skid.
“We’re following the system more, we’re more dialled in more, we’re winning more battles, and we’re working harder,” said Elias Lindholm, who had an empty-net goal and two assists. “We’re one of those teams that need to work harder than the other team to win games and I think we’re starting to realize that.”
Jacob Markstrom, who had 22 stops, has won three games in a row on the heels of a seven-game winless skid. He improved to 4-6-1 on the season.
DeSmith, the busier of the two goaltenders, had 34 saves to suffer his first regulation loss. He’s 4-1-1 on the season.
Off to its fastest start in franchise history, Vancouver opened the scoring at 9:36. Predictably, the goal came on the power play, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the league and on a lethal 9-for-23 streak over the past five games.
Pettersson’s one-timer from the faceoff dot completed a slick passing sequence with Quinn Hughes and JT Miller. The three players entered the night in a tie for the league lead in scoring with 26 points apiece.
Pettersson, Miller and Hughes are the first trio of teammates to have 26 points each after 16 games since 2005-06, when Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza did it for the Ottawa Senators.
The Canucks were without forward Andrei Kuzmenko, who left Wednesday’s game in the third period after taking a puck in the face.
Connor Garland moved up into Kuzmenko’s spot on Vancouver’s top line with Ilya Mikheyev and Pettersson. Linus Karlsson made his NHL debut.
Canucks: Open a two-game homestand on Saturday against the Seattle Kraken.
Flames: Take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday to begin a three-game Eastern road swing.