CALGARY, Alberta (AP) It looks like Sam Bennett has finally found his groove after a slow start.
Bennett scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:10 left in regulation and the Calgary Flames rallied for a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
On a determined individual effort, Bennett took the puck hard to the front of the net from the side boards and backhanded it 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 (four goals, six assists) at the Scotiabank 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,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. ”That’s a real good sign for our hockey club and it’s a great sign for Bennie.”
Matthew Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 8 1/2 minutes left to start the Flames’ comeback from a 2-1 deficit and added an empty-netter in the final minute. Troy Brouwer had a goal in the first period and Mike Smith finished with 22 saves.
”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 Smith, who was playing in his 500th career game.
The Flames’ second third-period comeback in two games moved them two points ahead of the Canucks in the Pacific Division and into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser scored for Vancouver, and Nilsson stopped 31 shots.
”We played a good game. We’re not getting the results right now but we’ve got to keep battling,” Canucks center Henrik Sedin said.
The Canucks took a 2-1 lead on the power play with 55 seconds left in the second period. Markus Granlund put a slick centering pass right on the tape of Boeser’s stick and he neatly steered it in for his 15th of the season. The impressive 20-year-old has 10 goals in his last 12 games.
”I’m really pleased with his game,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. ”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.”
It came on the first shot Vancouver had generated in four power-play chances. Up until that point, Calgary had done an excellent job stifling the Canucks’ ninth-ranked power play.
Calgary tied it when Garnet Hathaway’s alert pass found Tkachuk in the slot and the 19-year-old sent a backhander into the top corner.
Tkachuk was back after serving a one-game suspension for a spearing incident in Wednesday’s game against Toronto.
”You never want to miss a game,” he said. ”I was pumped when they pulled out the win in OT in Montreal (on Friday night). I thought I owed it to the guys to play my hardest tonight.”
Vancouver opened the scoring 2:02 into the game as Michael Del Zotto’s point shot was going wide when it hit the skate of Virtanen and stopped there. Virtanen then fired in his fourth.
The Flames tied it with 1:32 remaining in the opening period when Curtis Lazar set up Brouwer for a one-timer on a 2-on-1.
NOTES: Canucks LW Sven Baertschi took a puck in the face early in the second period and did not return. .. Tkachuk returned after serving a one-game suspension for a spearing incident in Wednesday’s game against Toronto. … Granlund played in his 200th career game. … Nic Dowd made his Canucks debut after being acquired Thursday in a trade with Los Angeles. … Michael Chaput, recalled from Utica (AHL) on Thursday, made his season debut for Vancouver. … Del Zotto’s assist was his 200th NHL point.