Matthew Tkachuk stars in Calgary Flames’ 3-2 comeback win

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Matthew Tkachuck
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Matthew Tkachuck /

Matthew Tkachuk, in an utterly dominating second and third period, spearheaded a Calgary Flames’ revival, helping the away side complete the comeback with an astonishing last-minute tipped winner. 

The 3-2 win over the Islanders improves Calgary’s record to 3-1 on the current six-game stint. Securing two points helped the Flames jump into a share of second place with the Sharks in the Pacific Division.

The win didn’t come without potentially bloodcurdling collateral damage. Mike Smith looked to aggravate his groin as he stretched for a shot with a second left in the game. It’s merely speculation at this early stage, but Smith, writhing in pain, had to be helped off the ice.

Calgary can ill-afford to lose their all-star netminder and all eyes will be on the medical report in the coming days.

First period

It looked like Smith, by evidence of a Casey Cizikas‘ opening goal, should have ingested a stimulant or drank a Red Bull before taking to the ice at the Barclays Center. Calgary’s netminder was clearly still asleep, uncharacteristically letting a weak backhand, the first shot he faced, slip through his five-hole. TJ Brodie was partly culpable as he coughed up possession in his own zone.

Cizikas’ diving effort caught Smith off guard, allowing the high-flying Isles to get off the mark only 3:07 into the contest.

Plagued by a recent rash of harebrained mistakes, the Flames, for the most part, did a better job of sticking to the basics in the first but once again couldn’t stay out of the box. The away side, who took two needless penalties, were lucky to avoid punishment, staving off a menacing Islanders’ power play. The Islanders bagged four goals on a five-minute man advantage against Detroit on Friday night.

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Ryan Lomberg, at 5 ft 9 in, 187 lbs, bit off more than he could chew when he dropped the gloves with Ross Johnston, who has an eight inch and 50 pound advantage on the feisty Flames forward. A bewildered Johnston couldn’t believe the diminutive Lomberg accepted the formidable challenge.

The fresh-faced Lomberg took a few heavy shots in the ensuing fight, one of which knocked him flat on his back. I’d like to say it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters most but that clearly wasn’t the case on this occasion. Gotta love his fearless, combative nature, though he didn’t return to the game after getting popped.

Brodie then made his second egregious error of the period, this time seeing his point shot blocked which led to a Jordan Eberle breakaway. Eberle beat Smith with a nifty move but hit flush the crossbar. The Flames defenceman would have been better served dumping it behind the Islanders’ goal.

Second period

Anthony Beauvillier exposed Smith’s five-hole yet again for New York’s second early in the middle frame. Matt Stajan, trying to block the long-range wrist shot, screened his netminder, the puck going through his legs before finding its way past Smith.

Sam Bennett, whose line was criticized by Glen Gulutzan after the loss to the Rangers, made a nifty spin on an odd-man rush, feeding Mark Jankowski who was unable to test Jaroslav Halák.

The Flames power play, running at a miserly 16.8 percent success rate, possessed the puck well but had trouble consistently threatening Halak’s goal. Until Jankowski potted his ninth goal from a Bennett feed that is. With a second remaining on the man advantage the under-fire line paid back Gulutzan for affording them a peep at some power play time.

Third period

The puck dropped to Sean Monahan in the slot after some excellent work from Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano. With nothing to shoot at, Monahan couldn’t beat Halak from close range.

Johnny Hockey started taking more of a foothold in the third, wheeling and dealing to create space for his side. The Islanders, though, were one of the top teams in the league at holding a one-goal lead going into the third, losing one of 19 (18-0-1). That record was about to take a stern hit though.

Relentless in their puck pursuit, the Flames took the impetus in the final stanza. When they did get up close and personal, Halak increasingly frustrated a desperate Flames unit.

Matthew Tkachuk finally made the breakthrough midway through the third, tying the game on a dandy deflection off a Michael Frolik setup.

Next: Jaromir Jagr's Flames highlights

Tkachuk was a whisker away from winning the game with three minutes to go, dinging one off the post.

He would stamp his indomitable dominance on the contest with just over a minute to play, tipping in an outrageous winner for his 20th of the season.

Tkachuk has 12 goals in his last 18 games and was irrefutably the star of the show in Brooklyn. The 20-year-old also drew three penalties and caused all sorts of havoc for the befuddled home side.

Winning their fifth game when trailing after two, the Flames improve to 16-6-5 on the road with a mouth-watering contest in Beantown next on the docket.