CALGARY — The wait is finally over for Calgary Flames off-season acquisitions Brandon Bollig and Raphael Diaz.
Both scored their first goals of the season Monday night — and both came in a big three-goal third period as the Flames downed the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Monday night.
“They’re two guys that have lots of friends in the locker-room because they’re great workers. They take care of their teammates,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley. “They’re easy guys to work with and both, in an important game, they come up with each their first goal. I can tell you that players were really happy on the bench.”
With a one-goal lead headed to the third period, the Flames struck on the power play at 4:24, making it 3-1 when Diaz took a pass from Joe Colborne and blasted a shot past rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
“It came back to me and then I closed the eyes and shot,” said Diaz with a chuckle. “It’s real nice to get the first goal and it was a big win for us.”
Signed as a free agent after winning a job in training camp, it was the first goal in 36 games for Diaz, whose last goal came against Calgary on March 28, 2014, while he was with the New York Rangers.
Less than three minutes later, Colborne set up Bollig’s first goal in 61 games at with a nifty pass that Bollig converted at the side of the net.
“Coming here, I kinda wanted to make them look good for trading for me, so it was not ideal to wait that long to put one in. It’s nice it finally came,” said Bollig, acquired from Chicago at the NHL Draft in June in exchange for a third round pick. After sitting as a healthy scratch seven times in the first half of the season, Bollig is playing his best hockey of the year.
“I know I’m not here to score goals, but it’s nice when it happens,” said Bollig. “Last year I had a pretty decent year as a fourth-liner, point-wise. It wasn’t ideal to wait that long, but I’ve been getting a lot of chances.”
Bryan Little answered right back to make it 4-2 but Sean Monahan’s team-leading 17th goal into an empty net with 2:33 remaining put the game away.
David Jones and Mason Raymond also scored for Calgary (28-20-3). Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Flames move into third place in the Pacific Division. Calgary is two points up on Vancouver, although the Canucks hold three games in hand.
Blake Wheeler had the other goal for Winnipeg (26-18-8). The Jets have come out of the all-star break and lost four straight in regulation including three in a row on the road, where they have the NHL’s best road record (14-8-5).
“We have to bear down more. Every guy, including myself, has to step it up a little bit more, and focus a little bit more,” said Hutchinson. “For myself, I have to make that extra save and for the players, they have to try and hit the net and bear down when you do get those scoring chances.”
The Jets are back in action Tuesday when they play in Vancouver.
“We’ve got to get back to our game. We have to come back harder, we have to allow our D to step up and take away the other team’s time and space,” said Wheeler. “This is a team we played tonight with a lot of skill that can come at you in waves and we just didn’t do a good enough job.”
Jonas Hiller made 17 saves to earn the win and improve his record to 16-14-2.
Hutchinson had 23 stops for Winnipeg. His record falls to 14-7-2. Ondrej Pavelec stopped all four shots he faced in relief.
Calgary broke a 1-1 tie two minutes into the second period on a perfectly-placed shot by Raymond.
Picking up a loose puck and bursting into the Jets end, Raymond snapped a shot inside the far goal post for just his second goal since way back on Oct. 19.
After Blake Wheeler opened the scoring 1:09 into the game, Jones tied it three minutes later on a play set up by Mark Giordano, who was playing in his 500th NHL game. The Flames captain leads all defencemen in scoring with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists).