Flames Takeaways: Star players finally finding chemistry in victory over Kraken

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This one felt like a big one.

For the Calgary Flames.

For Jonathan Huberdeau.

You wonder if it was the type of win a team can turn a season on.

How appropriate, then, it was sealed by a man whose season seems to have taken forever to kick into full gear. 

He finally shot it.

Six nights after his refusal to shoot from the slot eventually cost his club an overtime point in LA, Jonathan Huberdeau finally made good on his vow to start firing away.

Turns out the two-time 30-goal man has a pretty nice finish.

Huberdeau broke a 2-2 tie at Climate Pledge Arena with eight minutes left in the final period when he corralled a loose puck in front of the net, spun to face Philipp Grubauer and roofed a wrister over the netminder’s blocker.

It was his first game-winner as a Flame.

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A relief for a man, and a team, who deserved the two points they left Seattle with Wednesday, especially after the grind and heartbreak suffered one night earlier in Calgary courtesy of the Flames’ northern rivals.

This time the better team won.

“Huge day for us and hopefully, right now, this is the turning point,” said Dan Vladar, who made 29 saves in a 3-2 win over a Seattle club the Flames leapfrogged over for third place in the division.

“I think the guys played awesome tonight.”

Darryl Sutter didn’t feel that way early in the second period when a Kraken go-ahead goal by Jamie Oleksiak prompted a rare timeout by the coach.

“I’ve been in this business for 40-some years and if you’ve got guys playing on the wrong side of the puck, you’ve got to correct it,” explained Sutter.

“We had to take a timeout to do it.

“If we didn’t do it, we were probably going to lose the game. Cost us two goals against. That was enough.”

The chief culprit at that moment was Huberdeau, who allowed Oleksiak to waltz in from the blue line, untouched, before putting the hosts up 2-1.

Minutes later the Flames allowed two Brandon Tanev breakaways on the same shift.

Alas, Vladar stood tall (and got help from the crossbar), setting the table for a Nazem Kadri deflection on the power play to tie the game 2-2 midway through.

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Unlike a night earlier, the Flames won the third, thanks to Huberdeau and the type of shut-down finish many assumed would’ve come easier for this bunch.

“As soon as we got the third one, that’s what we’ve got to do, get the lead and shut it down,” Rasmus Andersson told Sportsnet 960 afterward.

“Be gritty. Just get it out and survive.”

Andrew Mangiapane, whose grit and six shots led the team, agreed.

“I liked our third – I think we knew it was a big period for us and we weren’t happy with (Tuesday) night’s result and we wanted to come out hard and get those two points,” said Mangiapane, who bounced back well after taking the third period against Edmonton that cost his club the game.

“It’s tough with those back-to-backs, but we’re a good team, hard-working and resilient. We kind of showed that today.”

Asked about the timeout, Andersson admitted his club, “needed it at the time,” and responded the right way.

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As did Huberdeau, whose path to finding his game continues to be a winding one.

“He’s been sniping me and Marky in practice, so I think it was just a matter of time,” said Vladar, pumping Huberdeau’s tires.

“Hopefully he’s going to keep doing it, because I know he’s doing the right things and he’s just an awesome guy who works hard.”

With goals from Tyler Toffoli, Kadri and Huberdeau the Flames had several elements of what they went into the season believing they’d need to win games:

Stars being stars, the team clamping down defensively (especially late), solid goaltending, high shot volume (they outshot the Kraken 44-31) and a work ethic that defied the fact they’d played and travelled one night earlier.

One night after every single Flames recorded a shot against Edmonton, everyone but Chris Tanev hit the net against Seattle.

Heck, Huberdeau had three for the second-straight night.

With points in 11 of their last 14 outings, dare we say the Flames are finally finding some of that chemistry they’ve been searching for so desperately?

You could tell by his celebration and post-game smiles, the goal meant a whole lot more to Huberdeau than his previous six as a Flame.

“We all know what he’s capable of and we know all his numbers from last year,” said Andersson.

“The goal today probably means a lot to him and hopefully he keeps building on that.”

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