CALGARY — When the Calgary Flames needed it most, goaltender Jacob Markstrom stepped up and delivered his best performance of the season.
Markstrom was spectacular on Tuesday making 33 saves to backstop the Calgary Flames to a critical 2-1 victory over the red-hot Los Angeles Kings.
"He was sharp. Made some big stops. He probably stole us two points,” said Flames centre Elias Lindholm.
After rookie Walker Duehr gave Calgary a 2-1 lead at 17:59 of the first period, it was left to Markstrom to make several key stops over the final 40-plus minutes to preserve the victory.
The Kings have been the NHL's hottest team, entering the night on a franchise-record 12-game points streak (10-0-2) in which they outscored the opponent 52-28. Nineteen of those goals came in the last three games, all wins, including an 8-2 thumping of Calgary eight days ago in Los Angeles.
“Obviously, we're not very happy about the last meeting against these guys and it's still fresh in the memory. Today I thought we played a better game,” Markstrom said.
The veteran's biggest stop came in the final minute of the first period, right after the go-ahead goal.
After two Flames got tangled up with one King outside the Calgary blue line, Kevin Fiala had nothing but time and space as he moved in from the centre line on a breakaway. As he skated in, he paused at the top of the crease before shooting with Markstrom kicking out his left pad to deny him.
“It was almost like a penalty shot or shootout,” said Lindholm. “I thought Marky stayed calm in there for a long time and read him pretty well."
Markstom, who was starting for the 15th time in the last 16 games, said the key is to not think too much.
“Just wait him out because he wasn't going very fast,” Markstrom said. “Wait to see what he was going to do and not bite on anything before that.”
He also had to be excellent in the second. Markstrom flashed out his glove to deny Adrian Kempe after he broke in alone. Two minutes later when the slot opened up for Matt Roy, Markstrom jabbed out his blocker to make another key stop.
Late in the third, again it was Fiala with a chance, this time set up by Mikey Anderson on a cross-ice feed, but Markstrom sprawled across with a highlight-reel save to again deny him.
“It gives a huge jump to the group, right?” said Duehr. “You see him bailing us out at times and he's giving his best effort so we can only go out there and do the same for him.”
Andrew Mangiapane also scored for Calgary (34-26-15), which wins its second consecutive game and improves to 7-3-2 in their last dozen outings.
Combined with Winnipeg's 3-0 loss in San Jose, the Flames have moved to within two points of the Jets, who occupy the final wild-card berth in the NHL's Western Conference. Each team has seven games remaining including a head-to-head on April 5 at Canada Life Centre.
“It felt like a playoff game. We had our pushes, they had their pushes and I thought Marky stood on his head tonight and gave us a chance to win,” said Duehr, who continues to provide a spark since getting called up from the minors. He's scored six goals in 21 games.
Sean Durzi had the lone goal for Los Angeles (43-21-10).
The Kings remain two points behind Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division. Edmonton is in third, just one point behind Los Angeles.
“I don't think it was a lack of effort, certainly today. It was a hard-fought game, a physical game. For the most part we did a good job. Just obviously unfortunately we didn't convert on a few of our chances,” said Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
Markstrom improves to 21-20-10.
In his sixth start in goal since being acquired by the Kings in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Joonas Korpisalo, tested 32 times, lost for the first time. He falls to 15-12-4 on the season.
“Both goaltenders were first and second star in whatever order you want to pick,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan. “They both played well. Korpi made some really good saves for us. He gave us a chance to have those good looks at the other end. It's unfortunate we couldn't reward him with at least one to get him a point."
Momentum swung in the Kings favour halfway through the first when Rasmus Andersson's goal, which would have made it 2-0, was waved off after an offside review. Less than two minutes later, Durzi picked the top corner to tie it.
Calgary also thought they scored in the second but upon video review, but upon video review, the call of no goal stood.
KINGS LINEUP SHUFFLE
Los Angeles made three lineup changes. Returning from a one-game suspension was Blake Lizotte. Not with the Kings to start this road trip after being injured last game was RW Gabe Vilardi (upper body). Arthur Kaliyev also drew in up front with Jaret Anderson-Dolan coming out. On the blue line, Alex Edler replaced Sean Walker.
PRIDE NIGHT AT SADDLEDOME
It was Pride Night at the Saddledome with all Flames wearing custom jerseys for warm-up that were designed by local artist Megan Parker. The Flaming C on the front and the numbers featured a pattern of flora and fauna from Alberta prairies arranged to reflect the rainbow-coloured pride flag.
Kings: Road trip continues Thursday against the Oilers.
Flames: Head to Vancouver to take on the Canucks on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press