The Calgary Flames, led by backup goalie David Rittich, extended their season-best win streak to six games, defeating the host Florida Panthers 4-2 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla on Friday.
A 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic who was playing just the sixth NHL game of his career, Rittich stopped 41 shots and improved to 4-1-1.
The rookie replaced veteran Mike Smith, who was given a rare day off. Smith has started 37 of Calgary’s 44 games and has a 19-13-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.50 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
Rittich outplayed Florida’s James Reimer, who made 25 saves in his 16th consecutive start, the longest active streak in the NHL. It’s also the sixth-longest streak in Panthers history.
Calgary got goals from Sean Monahan, his 21st of the season, Matthew Tkachuk, his 12th, and 2018 All-Star Johnny Gaudreau, his 15th. Mikael Backlund added his ninth goal of the season on an empty-netter with 46 seconds left.
Gaudreau’s goal came on a power play, and the Flames improved to 13-4-0 when Monahan scores.
Florida got two goals from Evgenii Dadonov, who ended a slump by posting his eighth and ninth scores of the season.
After a scoreless first period, Florida got on the board with Dadonov’s first goal since Nov. 10. It was a power-play goal just 27 seconds into the second period as Dadonov set up in the slot, took a feed from Jonathan Huberdeau and fired it past Rittich.
Calgary leveled things at 1-1 just 33 seconds later as Monahan, lurking on the edges of the right circle, scored after collecting a backhand pass from defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
The Flames scored twice more to close the second period with a 3-1 lead.
Tkachuk forced a turnover along the boards, got the puck to Travis Hamonic and was at the doorstep to clean up the juicy rebound for a 2-1 advantage.
Then the Flames’ power play, which had struggled before arriving in the state of Florida, clicked for the second straight game. Mark Giordano’s cross-ice pass found Gaudreau, who had enough time to crank a vicious slapshot under Reimer’s left arm.
With 6:57 left in the third, Florida closed its deficit to 3-2 as Panthers 2018 All-Star Aleksander Barkov drew three defenders before Dadonov pounced on a loose puck and scored.
The Panthers pulled their goalie for the final two minutes and had some great chances, but Tkachuk stole the puck, carried it into the offensive zone under intense pressure and fed Backlund for the empty-net goal that clinched the win.
—Field Level Media