Bollig, Diaz lead streaking Flames to 3-goal win over Jets
The wait is over for Calgary Flames offseason acquisitions Brandon Bollig and Raphael Diaz.
Both players scored their first goals of the season to help Calgary beat the struggling Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Monday night.
"They're two guys that have lots of friends in the locker room because they're great workers. They take care of their teammates," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "They're easy guys to work with and both, in an important game, they come up with each their first goal. I can tell you that players were really happy on the bench."
Leading by one heading into the third period, the Flames struck on the power play at 4:24, making it 3-1 when Diaz took a pass from Joe Colborne let a rocket go from the blue line that found the top corner.
Signed as a free agent after winning a job in training camp, Diaz scored his first goal in 36 games. His previous goal came against Calgary on March 28, 2014, with the New York Rangers.
"It came back to me and then I closed the eyes and shot," Diaz said with a chuckle. "It's real nice to get the first goal and it was a big win for us."
Less than three minutes later, Colborne set up Bollig's first goal in 61 games with a nifty pass that Bollig converted at the side of the net.
"Coming here, I kind of wanted to make them look good for trading for me, so it was not ideal to wait that long to put one in. It's nice it finally came," said Bollig, acquired from Chicago for a third-round pick at last year's NHL Draft.
A healthy scratch seven times in the first half of the season, Bollig is playing his best hockey with the Flames.
"I know I'm not here to score goals, but it's nice when it happens," he said. "Last year I had a pretty decent year as a fourth-liner, point-wise. It wasn't ideal to wait that long, but I've been getting a lot of chances."
Bryan Little answered right back to make it 4-2, but Sean Monahan's team-leading 17th goal into an empty net with 2:33 remaining put the game away.
David Jones and Mason Raymond also scored for Calgary. Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Flames moved into third place in the Pacific Division. Calgary is two points ahead of Vancouver, although the Canucks hold three games in hand.
Blake Wheeler had the other goal for Winnipeg, which owns the NHL's best road record (14-8-5). The Jets have come out of the All-Star break and lost four straight in regulation — three away from home. They are back in action Tuesday in Vancouver.
"We've got to get back to our game. We have to come back harder, we have to allow our D to step up and take away the other team's time and space," Wheeler said. "This is a team we played tonight with a lot of skill that can come at you in waves and we just didn't do a good enough job."
Jonas Hiller made 17 saves to improve his record to 16-14-2.
Rookie goalie Michael Hutchinson stopped 23 shots for Winnipeg but fell to 14-7-2. Ondrej Pavelec stopped all four shots he faced in relief.
"We have to bear down more. Every guy, including myself, has to step it up a little bit more, and focus a little bit more," Hutchinson said. "For myself, I have to make that extra save and for the players, they have to try and hit the net and bear down when you do get those scoring chances."
Calgary broke a 1-all tie two minutes into the second period on a perfectly placed shot by Raymond.
Picking up a loose puck and bursting into the Jets end, Raymond snapped a 20-footer inside the far post. His seventh goal of the season was his first in nine games and just his second since Oct. 19.
Playing in his 500th NHL game, Calgary captain Mark Giordano made the long breakout pass that led to Jones' goal. Giordano leads all defensemen in scoring with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists).
Sven Baertschi was inserted for Calgary in place of Mikael Backlund (ill). ... Continuing his recovery from shoulder surgery, Flames 2014 first-round pick Sam Bennett practiced with the main group for the first time. He wore a yellow non-contact jersey. ... Calgary placed David Wolf on injured reserve after he cut his leg in his NHL debut Saturday.