Monday, February 26, 2024

Flames return from break with impressive victory over Bruins

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This was an impressive introduction for the new-look Calgary Flames.

Trade acquisition Andrei Kuzmenko, immediately spotlighted in a special-teams role, potted a power-play goal.

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Waiver claim Brayden Pachal, working on the third defence pair, racked up a game-high six hits.

And, despite all that talk of a retool, the Flames returned from their all-star break/bye week with a superb showing against one of the NHL’s top troupes, skating Tuesday to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

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Kuzmenko, who arrived last week as part of the return package for Elias Lindholm, made an immediate impact for his new crew, scoring on just his second shift of the evening in the Flaming C. That shouldn’t come as major surprise, since the 28-year-old right-winger did register 39 snipes last season on behalf of the Vancouver Canucks.

Connor Zary, Jonathan Huberdeau and Noah Hanifin also tickled twine against the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.

Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri were credited with three points apiece, while Jacob Markstrom contributed 21 saves and an assist.

Connor Zary
Calgary Flames forward Connor Zary celebrates after his goal as Boston Bruins look on at TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo by Charles Krupa /The Associated Press

The Flames certainly didn’t show any signs of rust in Tuesday’s opening period, one of their finest frames of the season.

They were handed an early power-play opportunity, with Kuzmenko hopping the boards with the top unit. Just 32 seconds later, he accepted a pass from Huberdeau and beat all-star netminder Jeremy Swayman with a glove-side sizzler from the slot.

Kuzmenko’s man-advantage marker came only 4:20 into his introductory outing with the Flames, making it the fifth-fastest first goal in franchise history. (The club record, in case you were wondering, belongs to Eddy Beers, who set a mark of 1:45 back in 1982.)

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Zary’s goal was a beauty. Kadri attracted the attention of three defenders before sneaking a saucer pass to his rookie linemate, who finished on a slick deke to his backhand.

The Bruins spoiled Jacob Markstrom’s bid for a second consecutive shutout — with a nine-day layoff in between — on a five-on-three power-play early in the third. Markstrom was fooled by a deflection, with Pavel Zacha’s one-timer glancing off Hanifin’s stick.

The Flames restored the two-goal lead on a determined individual effort by Huberdeau. During a stretch of four-on-four, Huberdeau won a puck battle with Charlie McAvoy, immediately turning back toward the net and roofing a shot.

With about 10 minutes remaining, Hanifin squeaked a backhander past Swayman for another power-play tally.

ICE CHIPS: For Pachal, a half-dozen hits is the second-highest total of his NHL career. The 24-year-old was claimed off waivers Sunday from the Vegas Golden Knights … Flames rookie Martin Pospisil, after missing the past four contests due to injury, hit the showers early in Boston. Pospisil was dinged with a major penalty for cross-checking — and game misconduct — after he bloodied Brad Marchand during a scramble around the crease in the opening period … New Jersey is the next stop for the Flames on this four-game junket. They’ll dance Thursday with the Devils (5 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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