These are the moments the Calgary Flames are hoping can flip the switch on their season.
Those rare opportunities in which breaking through can have a long-lasting effect on the group as a whole.
It started Saturday with a monumental, second-period turnaround against the Edmonton Oilers that ended a two-game slide to put a well-earned bounce in their step.
They followed it up Tuesday with a power-play goal in the dying minutes against the Winnipeg Jets to give them two wins in a row.
Now they’re off to Vancouver for three-straight games against a Canucks team struggling to find its way.
This is the type of positive momentum the Flames haven’t had since the opening trio of games.
“Hopefully, now we can springboard it into something,” said Flames coach Geoff Ward, following the 3-2 win over the Jets on Tuesday.
“If it wasn’t a complete 60 it was sure close to it. Now we have to try to build something from it. When you get everybody chipping in it’s a good sign for your team.”
He wasn’t the only one to call it their most complete effort of the season, which is significant in a room that has struggled with wild inconsistencies this season.
Elias Lindholm echoed the coach’s sentiments mere moments after his power-play goal bounced off a defenceman and snuck between Connor Hellebuyck’s pads to snap a 2-2 tie with 1:42 remaining. It ended an 0-for-11 streak against the Jets penalty killers to even their season series 2-2-1.
“We’re slowly getting better and better,” said Lindholm.
“The last two periods against Edmonton were really solid, and today I think we played our best 60-minute game so far. So hopefully it can keep going this way and keep getting better every game.”
The early gap opened at the top of the standings by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens has left the Flames, Oilers, Jets and Canucks jockeying for equal parts wins and consistency in a division that promises to come right down to the final week to decide who is sitting out the playoffs.
The Flames recently found themselves on the short end in five of seven outings, challenging their pre-season belief they are one of Canada’s best and deepest teams.
A dozen games in, the Flames are a 6-5-1 despite world-class netminding and a quartet of top-line stars who have not disappointed.
The secondary scoring that was an issue through their early funk has been given a boost of late by Mikael Backlund, who has spearheaded the team’s recent resurgence with 12 shots, four points and otherworldly defensive play the last two games.
It is over that span the third-line centre has gelled brilliantly with Andrew Mangiapane and Milan Lucic, with whom he’s combined for ten points since Saturday.
Early in Tuesday’s second period, Mangiapane’s game-tying goal demonstrated exactly what they’re capable of as he whacked in a Backlund rebound that all came about due to Lucic’s work along the boards.
“They’ve been our best line for these two games,” said Lindholm.
“It’s always good to come on after them. They give a lot of energy and they’re playing with a lot of confidence, which is really good.”
The feel-good moment of the evening came later in the second period when 29-year-old Byron Froese redirected a Juuso Valimaki shot to snap the 1-1 tie and give the Winkler, Man, native his first NHL goal in almost three years. It was just his second NHL game since 2018, prompting the bench to explode with excitement for the captain of the Flames’ AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat.
“It was a relieving and exciting feeling,” said Froese, who made his Flames debut on the fourth line Saturday.
“I’m not known for my scoring in the NHL, but it was good to score that goal. I’ve been waiting for this for two years now. When I got the opportunity I didn’t want to pass it up and squander it.”
Opportunity is exactly what the Flames will be presented with on the West Coast where they are starting to believe they can continue building confidence and wins starting Thursday.
For the first time all year, it’s clear their top three lines don’t need to be tinkered with (Sam Bennett had another good game alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan) and their 200-foot game is steady.
“This division is so close – the teams are all good and if you let your guard down and get complacent it can end up biting you,” said Ward, forever trying to temper mood swings surrounding the team.
“We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play the type of game we played tonight.”
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