New York Islanders’ Zach Parise, left, struggles for a loose puck in front of Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

New York Islanders’ Zach Parise, left, struggles for a loose puck in front of Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Flames run win streak to six in a row with victory over Islanders

Flames Adam Ruzicka got the scoring started

CALGARY — It took a while to get in the lineup and stay in the lineup, but Flames Adam Ruzicka is starting to flash his potential.

The rookie centre had a goal and an assist and was a plus-3 on Saturday as Calgary made it six wins in a row with a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders.

“Just play an honest game, play hard and simple,” Ruzicka said, when asked what’s keeping him in the lineup. After starting the season in the minors and then spending time as a healthy scratch, the 22-year-old has played the last nine games.

There’s no margin for off games considering the high importance coach Darryl Sutter places on that position.

“Your centremen drive your team and if one of those guys isn’t on, then you have trouble as it affects the whole line and that means that three guys aren’t playing then, not just one,” said Sutter.

Over this last nine-game stretch, Ruzicka has five points (two goals, three assists).

“It’s not just the points. I think with him, we don’t want him to be, he has to be a third effort player for us,” said Sutter. “He played a good game for us tonight.”

Ruzicka got the scoring started converting Rasmus Andersson’s centering pass at 9:58 of the first period. Playing his 14th game overall this season, it’s his third goal.

Later he set up the eventual game-winner by Andrew Mangiapane, which made it 3-1 at 15:32 of the second.

“He’s been great. He’s a big, strong centre, good down low, he comes through the middle with speed and he’s smart in the offensive zone,” said Mangiapane, who leads the team with 24 goals. “You saw it today on my goal. He made the play, I just tapped it in.”

Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson and Elias Lindholm also scored for Calgary (26-13-6). Johnny Gaudreau had a pair of assists to extend his point streak to six games (3-4-7).

The red-hot Flames improved to a perfect 3-0-0 on a seven-game homestand that sees Columbus up next on Tuesday. Overall, they’ve won six straight at the Saddledome by a combined score of 29-6.

Calgary climbs to within one point of Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division. The Flames hold three games in hand on the Golden Knights.

Noah Dobson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for New York (17-19-6), which earns two of six points on its Western Canada road trip, having also lost Friday night in Edmonton. The Islanders wrap up a stretch of four road games in a row in Buffalo on Tuesday.

“I think every loss is frustrating in its own way. I think we go in there each night trying to win. The last two games we definitely did some good stuff and I think tonight (it was) just a couple breakdowns that cost us,” said Dobson.

After Dobson’s power play goal tied it at 17:07 of the first, the Flames regained the lead 61 seconds later on a setup from Gaudreau, who crossed the Islanders blue line, curled back to buy himself some time and space and fed Tanev coming late in the slot, who ripped a 40-foot wrist shot inside the goal post.

The Islanders trailed the rest of the way.

“They’re a good team and they’re very dangerous in the o-zone, especially those top lines,” said Isles defenceman Adam Pelech. “Lot of movement and their D gets active. They’re tough to contain at times.”

In his 12th consecutive start in net for Calgary, Jacob Markstrom had 19 saves to improve to 20-10-5.

Ilya Sorokin made 24 stops in getting the surprise start for the Islanders. His record falls to 14-10-5.

Semyon Varlamov was supposed to start after Sorokin took the loss in Edmonton on Friday, and it was Varlamov who led the team onto the ice for warm-up. But right after, he was placed into the NHL’s COVID protocol, pressing Sorokin into duty.

“He warmed up, feeling fine, but obviously while we’re in Canada you have to test and we got the results, basically, I think there was maybe about 10 minutes before we were going back on the ice,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz.

Trotz wasn’t sure if Varlamov will be able to accompany the team back home on Sunday.

“I have no idea what’s going on in the world right now,” Trotz said. “Every province, every city it seems has different rules. We’ll get this test and we’ll have a real clear understanding of where he is once we get the results.”

Up 3-2, Gudbranson’s goal gave the Flames some insurance eight minutes into the third. Calgary put the game away at 15:13 on Lindholm’s one-timer, which extended his goal streak to four and point-streak to six (4-3-7).

Notes: With six points tonight – one from each player — Calgary’s defence has combined for 23 points in the last four games… The Islanders emergency back-up was Calgarian Colin Cooper, 27, who formerly played for Mount Royal University. He stayed in the dressing room though and did not sit on the bench… New York forward Kyle Palmieri was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game after returning to the team from a one-game paternity absence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2022.

Calgary Flames