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Toffoli scores in debut as Flames beat Blue Jackets 6-2

CALGARY — A goal, a win and the crowd chanting his name. It was a stirring Calgary Flames debut for right-winger Tyler Toffoli on Tuesday night.
Columbus Blue Jackets' goalie Elvis Merzlikins, left, blocks the net as Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk, centre, is checked by Andrew Peeke during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — A goal, a win and the crowd chanting his name. It was a stirring Calgary Flames debut for right-winger Tyler Toffoli on Tuesday night.

Acquired Monday in a trade with Montreal, Toffoli led Calgary to a 6-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, extending the Flames' winning streak to a season-high seven games.

“Obviously, coming to a really good team playing really good hockey right now, I was excited,” he said.

On his goal at 11:04 of the third period. Toffoli chased down Johnny Gaudreau's lobbed pass and neatly put away his 10th goal of the season as he cut across the net and outwaited goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.

The half-capacity Saddledome crowd of 9,639 immediately erupted and shortly after, chants of “Tyler Toffoli (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)” started.

“It was obviously pretty cool but at the same time a little embarrassing for myself, (Rasmus Andersson) was all over me in the room,” Toffoli said with a grin.

He played on a line with his old junior linemate and roommate, Sean Monahan, and Dillon Dube.

Eased into the lineup, getting only 12:18 in ice time, Toffoli still managed four shots on goal.

“We were good right from the start,” said Dube. “It was a lot of fun. It gave (Monahan) and I some energy to have Toff on the line and get going. I think we had to be good for him and I thought we built off a good start on the first shift.”

The big moment in the game came late in the second with Calgary up 2-1.

First, Jack Roslovic's turnover resulted in a two-on-one for Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and the Flames top two scorers did not squander the chance, executing a perfect passing sequence culminating in Tkachuk's 22nd goal.

Then in the final minute with the red-hot Blue Jackets power play on the ice – they were four for eight in their previous four games – another turnover allowed Dube and Andrew Mangiapane to race away on a two-on-one with Dube firing a shot past Merlizkins.

“I was looking to pass. (Mangiapane) has had the hot hand all year so I wanted to give him the puck and I'll take my chances giving him the puck, but their guy took the lane and I shot it and it went in, so it felt good,” said Dube, who snapped a 13-game pointless drought.

Erik Gudbranson, Elias Lindholm and Adam Ruzicka also scored for Calgary (27-13-6), which moves past Vegas into first place in the Pacific Division, one point up on the Golden Knights. The Flames also hold two games in hand.

Adam Boqvist and Zach Werenski scored for Columbus (23-23-1), which had won five straight on the road. The Blue Jackets wrap up a five-game road trip in Chicago on Thursday.

Making his first start in 39 days and his first home appearance of the season, rookie Flames goaltender Dan Vladar made 18 stops to improve to 7-3-1.

“Guys were just unreal in front of me,” said the Czech rookie. “We are red hot right now. Everybody's playing really well, all the lines are just rolling and we're not just leaning on one line, every line can score.”

The Flames, back in action on Tuesday against Anaheim, have also won seven in a row at home, having outscored the opposition 35-8 over that span.

Merzlikins was less busy compared to three weeks ago in Columbus when he was peppered with 62 shots in a 6-0 loss to Calgary, but he still faced 41 shots. His record falls to 17-13-1.

“They're a powerhouse team,” said Columbus coach Brad Larsen. “They're big, they're strong, they've got a good balance of veteran guys. It's a pretty deep team. We can't have anybody not on board in that game, not one, to stay with them for 60 (minutes).”

Up 1-0 early, the Flames made it 2-0 at 16:30 when Lindholm centred the puck from the corner and Blue Jackets defenceman Andrew Peeke swept it straight into his own net.

"Between periods I told him it was a hell of a shot. What do you say? He's not trying to one-time it,” said Larsen. “It's a reactionary thing. You're trying to clear it. He buries it. There's no point in getting mad over it.”

The Blue Jackets did answer right back though, cutting the deficit to 2-1 on Boquist's goal, but they could get no closer.

“We put in some good minutes and shot ourselves in the foot with some of the turnovers, power play, they score a short-handed goal,” said Werenski. “It's frustrating, but we've played some good hockey as of late. We can learn from this.”

Notes: Lindholm and Gaudreau extended their point streaks to seven. Lindholm also have a five-game goal streak... It was the first time Calgary has scored four or more goals while piling up six wins in a row since March 1988... RW Brett Ritchie came out of the lineup for the Flames. He has no points in 24 games... Flames improve to 11-1-2 against the Metropolitan division... Toffoli is the first player to wear No. 73 for the Flames.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press