CALGARY — The Calgary Flames are beginning to show flashes of that lightning-in-a-bottle team that made the playoffs last season.
The mediocre Pacific Division is giving them the chance to climb out of the basement if they ignite.
Last in the NHL at 10-14-2 on Monday, just six points separated the Flames from the San Jose Sharks sitting second in the division at 14-12-0.
The Flames were riding their first back-to-back wins of the season heading into Tuesday’s game against the visiting Sharks.
Calgary’s comeback victories in overtime and a shootout last week were shades of last season, when they earned 24 of their 97 points when trailing after two periods.
“Those are fun nights, but you’ve got to gain momentum from them,” Flames forward Matt Stajan said.
“We know how tight the standings are and we’re obviously at the bottom and not at the top so we need the points.
“We know we’re fortunate to be the division we’re in right now with a few teams struggling.”
The Los Angeles Kings (17-8-1) are pulling away atop the division, but the Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers have yet to reach 30 points.
So the Flames are not yet in the danger zone despite sitting a dozen points back of where they were after 26 games in 2014-15.
Thanks to sophomore sensation Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames have adapted well to the new three-on-three overtime with a 6-1 record in it. Gaudreau led the NHL in overtime goals Monday with three and also assisted on two.
“I get excited to play three-on-three. Obviously I really like it,” Gaudreau said. “Our team has had a lot of success with it so far this season. We’d like to get the win in regulation, but when it comes into overtime, we feel we’re pretty confident in ourselves.”
Gaudreau, a finalist last season for the Calder Trophy that goes to the NHL’s top rookie, leads the Flames in scoring with nine goals and 17 assists. The 23-year-old scored the overtime winner to complete his hat trick in Friday’s 5-4 win over Boston.
That and a 4-3 shootout victory over Dallas earlier in the week made for great theatre at Scotiabank Saddledome, but the Flames can no longer afford to be so entertaining.
With just three wins in regulation, they’ve given up at least a point to opposing teams in 23 of 26 games.
A combined save percentage of .885 by Calgary’s goaltenders contributes to a league-worst 94 goals against. The Flames’ special teams also rank last with power play at 12.2 per cent and a penalty kill at 72.
Much of Monday’s practice was spent working on the power play.
Forward Lance Bouma, who led the Flames in hits last season with 264, has begun skating with the team again after breaking his leg Oct. 13. Defenceman Kris Russell, who missed Friday’s game with an upper-body injury, did not practise Monday.
Calgary is at home to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and New York Rangers on Saturday before a four-game road trip.
“We still feel we can gain some ground with some big wins on this homestand,” captain Mark Giordano said. “It’s before Christmas so we feel we can get back into this.”