Thrust together as linemates as a result of Jonathan Huberdeau's injury, the chemistry is starting to build between Elias Lindholm and young forward Adam Ruzicka.
Each had a goal and assist on Saturday as the Calgary Flames ended a seven-game winless skid with a 3-2 NHL victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
"Tonight he played a real good game and hopefully he can build off that, too. That’s the Adam we expect,” said Lindholm. “He's got a lot of skill, big body, and used to put up a lot of points (in junior, the AHL) and obviously has a good chance now.”
A healthy scratch through 10 of the first 11 games, Ruzicka — normally a centre — was playing his third consecutive game and doing so in place of Huberdeau (upper body) on the left side of the Flames' No. 1 line with Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli.
“Pretty easy to fit into that line, easy to play with those guys,” said the 23-year-old Ruzicka, playing just his 35th career NHL game. “Just do my job, work hard and obviously the points are going to come.”
Tied 1-1, Calgary took its second lead of the first period at 17:22 when Lindholm spotted Ruzicka steaming toward the net on the far wing and set him up with a cross-ice pass that the Slovakian buried for his first of the season.
Ruzicka was also a central figure in Calgary's opening goal at 3:23, flinging a backhand toward the front of the net from the corner that went in off the stick of Lindholm.
“Obviously (Ruzicka) scored tonight, but I liked that Lindy likes who he's playing with,” said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “He was our best forward, Lindy, so maybe we shouldn't be experimenting with him.”
The key sequence in the game happened late in the second period with the scored tied 2-2.
Ten seconds into a holding penalty to Flames defenceman Mackenzie Weegar, Mikael Backlund set up Trevor Lewis who went forehand to backhand as he cut across the top of the crease to put Calgary back into the lead.
With the Jets still on the power play for another 1:50, a tripping penalty on netminder Jacob Markstrom led to a 79-second two-man advantage for the visitors.
But Calgary's maligned penalty kill came through to preserve the lead and ultimately the victory. After giving up power-play goals in seven straight games, the Flames have gone a perfect 8-for-8 in the last two games, including 3-for-3 against the Jets in which they didn't yield a shot.
“Sometimes a good kill won’t give you much. You just have to take what they give you. Sometimes it’s just up and over and a shot and a one-timer,” said Dubois. “I thought tonight, maybe 5-on-5 too, we were trying to perfect play it too much.”
Rasmus Andersson also had a hand in the offence for Calgary (6-6-2) with two assists.
Neal Pionk also scored for Winnipeg (8-4-1), which entered the night on a 6-0-1 tear and in possession of the league's third-longest active points streak.
Calgary native Josh Morrissey had two assists to continue his red-hot start. The Jets' leading scorer is already up to 13 helpers, which is halfway to his career high of 26 set in 2019-20.
“Not our worst game but we were facing a desperate club. We’ve got to match their intensity no matter what the situation is,” said Pionk.
Getting the start for the Flames, Markstrom made 21 stops to improve to 5-3-2. Among his stops was a highlight-reel effort in the first when he slid across the crease, stacking his pads and windmilling out his catching hand to rob Mark Scheifele.
“That's pretty cool. The stack the pads, that's old school, Ron Hextall maybe?” said Flames defenceman Chris Tanev. “Definitely in those days. But a huge save for us and he made those all night.”
Connor Hellebuyck finished with 32 stops at the other end. His record falls to 7-3-1.
FIRST GOAL WINS
Flames scored first for the sixth game in a row, but the team's seven-game winless skid is proof that it hasn't been the recipe for success like it was a year ago. Calgary entered the night with a .250 winning percentage (2-4-2) which tied them with the Ottawa Senators for last in the NHL.
After missing five games with an upper body injury, Calgary welcomed back Tanev. However, he did not return to his regular top-four D pairing with Weegar, instead partnering with Connor Mackey, who returned after being a healthy scratch the past two games. Nick DeSimone and Dennis Gilbert, who began the season in the minors but had been the Flames' third pairing for the past two games, were both scratches.
Jets: Back in action Sunday night when they complete their short weekend road trip in Seattle against the Kraken.
Flames: Calgary plays host to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, before heading back on the road for a six-game trip.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2022.