CALGARY (CP) — After a slow start, it looks like Sam Bennett has finally found his groove.
Bennett scored the winner with 1:10 left in regulation and Matthew Tkachuk had a pair of goals as the Calgary Flames came from behind for a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
On a determined individual effort, Bennett took the puck hard to the front of the net from the side boards and sent a backhand past Anders Nilsson, electrifying the home crowd.
“It was a big goal and I felt a lot of emotion there. After a tough start, it’s definitely nice to get one like that,” said Bennett, who has three goals and eight points in his last seven games.
The 21-year-old, who has been playing alongside rookie Mark Jankowski and a combination of Jaromir Jagr and Garnet Hathaway, has been especially hot on home ice with points in each of his last seven home games (4 goals, 6 assists) at the Scotibank Saddledome. That streak began on Nov. 9 after he failed to pick up a point in the season’s first 15 games.
“His game was trending in the right direction and now he’s getting results,” said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s a real good sign for our hockey club and it’s a great sign for Bennie.”
Tkachuk added his second of the night into an empty net as Calgary made it two games in a row that its come back to win after trailing to begin the third period.
“When it was 2-1 headed into the third, we realized we had a little bit of a hill to climb, but some big goals from key players there and a huge two points,” said goaltender Mike Smith, who was playing in his 500th career game.
Troy Brouwer also scored for Calgary (16-12-2). The Flames move two points ahead of the Canucks in the Pacific Division.
Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser scored for Vancouver (14-12-4).
“We played a good game. We’re not getting the results right now but we’ve got to keep battling,” said Canucks centre Henrik Sedin.
Calgary pulled even at 11:34 of the third when Hathaway’s alert pass found Tkachuk in the slot and the 19-year-old sent a backhander into the top corner.
“You never want to miss a game,” said Tkachuk, who returned after serving a one-game suspension. “I was pumped when they pulled out the win in OT in Montreal. I thought I owed it to the guys to play my hardest tonight.”
Vancouver broke a 1-1 tie on a power play with 55 seconds remaining in the second period.
Cutting in off the wing, former Flame Markus Granlund put a slick centring pass right on the tape of Boeser, who neatly steered in his 15th goal.
“I’m really pleased with his game. We knew he had a real goal-scoring touch and I know I keep saying it, but his play away from the puck is the part that probably impresses me more,” said Canucks coach Travis Green.
The impressive 20-year-old, who was the NHL’s rookie of the month for November, has 10 goals in his last 12 games.
After Virtanen scored 2:02 into the game, Calgary pulled even at 18:28 on Brouwer’s one-timer of a Curtis Lazar set-up on a two-on-one.
Smith made 22 stops to improve to 13-9-2. At the other end, Nilsson had 31 stops to fall to 6-3-1.
Sven Baertschi took a puck in the face early in the second and did not return.
Notes: Granlund played in his 200th career game… Nic Dowd made his Canucks debut after being acquired Thursday in a trade with Los Angeles…. Making his season debut for Vancouver was Michael Chaput, recalled from Utica (AHL) on Thursday… Del Zotto’s assist was his 200th NHL point.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press