CALGARY — After losing 100-point wingers Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in the off-season, it has taken a while for Calgary centre Elias Lindholm to find chemistry with new linemates, but it is finally starting to come together.
Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli led the way with a goal and two assists each on Monday as the Flames struck for four goals in the first period and then withstood a furious late push from the Los Angeles Kings to hang on for a 6-5 victory.
“He's one of the best players in the league and just fortunate to be playing with him,” Toffoli said of Lindholm. “The past week or two I think he's really took his game to the next level and it's been fun to play with him.”
Adam Ruzicka, 23, who joined the line after Jonathan Huberdeau went down with an injury, has also fit in nicely.
"It feels good," Lindholm said. "We're having fun, making plays and scoring some goals. Obviously, Adam's come in and he's a good player. He's still a young kid, but he's been playing well."
Ruzicka's strong play of late – a goal and an assist on Monday giving him five points in his last four games – helped him keep his spot on the No. 1 line, even after Huberdeau's return on Monday.
“They moved the puck around really well, the three of them together. Adam did a good job of using his size and going to the net,” said Flames assistant coach Ryan Huska. “Certain guys have raised their level and we needed to find a way to win games, and Elias has been one of them and so has Tyler.”
A story line entering the game was how coach Darryl Sutter had revamped his other three lines to accommodate Huberdeau’s return after a three-game absence.
The changes worked with Calgary getting an even-strength goal from each line in storming out to a 4-2 lead after 20 minutes.
“That's what we need. We need everybody going. Rolling four lines, three sets of D,” Toffoli said. “When we play that way, we come in waves and that's how we're built and that's how we're successful.”
Huberdeau, Andrew Mangiapane and Brett Ritchie also scored for Calgary (7-6-2), which has won consecutive games after snapping a seven-game winless skid.
Arthur Kaliyev with a pair, Kevin Fiala, Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe supplied the offence for Los Angeles (10-7-1).
The Kings’ had their four-game winning streak came to an end.
Jacob Markstrom gets the win to improve to 6-3-2, with 24 stops including a sprawling stop off Kopitar from 10 feet out when he ended up all alone with 22 seconds remaining.
Jonathan Quick, with 23 saves, took the loss to fall to 6-5-1.
With just one goal in his first 11 games, Huberdeau opened the scoring at 3:49, taking a pass from Rasmus Andersson and ripping a shot past Quick.
“It was good. I mean, obviously, to get a goal. It had been a while,” said Huberdeau, who played alongside Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis. “We kept things simple. We had some scoring chances. In the first period, we were always in their zone. We worked to cycle the pucks. I loved playing with these guys.”
After the Kings struck twice in 78 seconds to grab its first lead, back roared the Flames with three straight capped off by Toffoli one-timing a pass from Lindholm past Quick on a two-on-one.
“We played one of our worst games defensively,” said Kings centre Phillip Danault. “We gave up too many rushes. We did that to ourselves. We lost the game in the first period. We weren’t sharp enough mentally.”
The Kings got third period goals from Kopitar at 8:57 and Kempe, with the goalie pulled, at 18:41, but the rally would come up one goal shy.
“We played some pretty shoddy hockey today,” said Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan. “We had guys missing line changes, passes through the neutral zone, we had an icing call with two seconds left, missed face-off coverages. To me, I think that the physical part of the game was potentially there early, but the mental part didn’t exist at all.”
NIGHT OF MILESTONES
Huberdeau’s goal was the 200th of his career. He’s the eighth player from the NHL’s 2011 draft class to reach that figure. Nazem Kadri’s two assists gives him 300 on his career, the seventh member of the 2009 draft class to hit that total. Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov played in his 500th NHL game.
ANDERSSON PILING UP ASSISTS
Rasmus Andersson hadn’t topped 17 assists in a season before a career season saw him pile up 46 helpers last year. The 26-year-old Swede has elevated his game even further this season with 12 assists in 15 games, which puts him on pace for more than 65. Al MacInnis (75) in 1990-91 and Gary Suter (70) in 1987-88 are the only two Flames defencemen in franchise history to top 65 assists in a season.
Kings: LA’s four-game road trip continues on Wednesday when they travel to Edmonton to take on the Oilers.
Flames: Calgary kicks off a six-game Eastern road trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2022.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press