Flames continue to bring playoff intensity amid dominant stretch at Saddledome

Arms raised, eyes fixed on the sky, Elias Lindholm exhaled deeply.

He had just scored his 40the of the season and the relief he felt was evident.

Another game, another milestone for the Calgary Flames.

Who said these latest contests don’t mean much?

They sure do for the 27-year-old centre-back, who joined his linemate Matthew Tkachuk to form the first Flames duo since 1993 to reach the 40-goal mark.

“The last game I had a lot of chances and he (Thatcher Demko) made a good save in the first period. At that point I felt like I didn’t know if I was going to get another one this season,” smiled Lindholm, when asked about the signature moment.

“It was nice to get one. It’s obviously a good number.”

He now has twice as many goals as perennial Selke Trophy leader Patrice Bergeron, whose +18 rating is less than a third of Lindholm’s +58 this season.

Selke’s defending champion Alex Barkov is a goal short of Lindholm and a formidable +38.

The merits of Lindholm being, at the very least, a finalist for the league’s best defensive forward award are self-evident.

A discussion for another day.

On Saturday, Lindholm and his Pacific Division-winning Flames did well to continue playing with a lead that matched the intensity of another desperate team coming through town.

Battling a Vancouver club that needed a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Flames turned a scoreless first period into a 2-0 lead early in the second on goals from Lindholm and Dube 16 seconds apart.

It kicked off a night of celebration for a fully engaged crowd that capped off the regular season home schedule with another win at the Dome.

A 6-3 win over the hated Canucks included plenty of wave, a Sweet Caroline chant and “Go Flames Go” chants that will soon get even louder when the sponsors gather for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. .

It might have been a good thing when Dillon Dube missed an empty net for what would have been a hat-trick, as the celebration could have started the Red Mile right then and there.

It was in their saddle-shaped home that the Flames created a 25-9-7 record this season, which included a record 11-game winning streak through a nine-game homestand of rescheduled games coming out of a Christmas shutdown when the team contracted Covid en masse.

That run of dominance at home is what Darryl Sutter credits with securing his playoff spot and the division crown.

“That’s the reason we’re not fighting for a playoff spot right now,” Sutter said.

“I listened to what the players told me. It got out of hand here at home in terms of it being all about individual achievement, not team achievement.”

When asked what happened to the sea change in the city, Sutter shrugged.

“Better prepared,” he said.

“Exact words they said to me, ‘unprofessional’.”

These fans have every reason to be excited about the club’s playoff chances given how far the group has come in the last six months under Sutter.

And the hits just keep coming, as the guys are on a 9-1-1 streak lately.

“We want to stay here,” said Lindholm, whose club deserves a lot of credit for matching the intensity of several desperate opponents in recent times.

“My first year here (three years ago) when we clinched early, I felt like we slowed down before we got to the playoffs. It’s hard to turn it back on like that. We have to continue to build our game and create that good feeling heading into the playoffs.”

Johnny Gaudreau punctuated the party with an empty net to reach 39 for the season, setting the table for another milestone as early as Tuesday in Nashville, where the Flames will open the first of three games in their final roadie of the regular season. .

The goal also gave Gaudreau 111 points for the season, making it the second-highest season in Flames history, surpassing Joe Mullen’s 110.

While the top line has led the Flames all season, it’s no secret that their secondary scoring will be key to spring success, which is why Saturday’s performance was so encouraging for the home side.

Rare goals from Brett Ritchie and Nikita Zadorov were part of a four-goal streak in the third period that ended the Canucks’ playoff hopes.

Dube’s two goals give him six in his last six games, playing in the back row with Blake Coleman and Calle Jarnkrok.

Dube, one of the best players in the Flames’ last-round playoff run as a rookie, has shown much more confidence and definition since the All-Star break, according to Sutter.

“I think I just needed to be a lot better for this team down the stretch to raise my game and get ready for the playoffs.”

“It’s been a lot better lately.”

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