Sports

Flames’ Toffoli rises to occasion, showing he’s more than a depth option

With Darryl Sutter juggling his bottom three lines Monday, no one was quite sure what to call the unit Tyler Toffoli was on.

Placed alongside second-line mainstay Andrew Mangiapane and fourth line centre Adam Ruzicka, fans wondered whether if it meant Toffoli could still be deemed a third liner.

By night’s end, there was only one thing to call him.

“He’s a goal scorer,” said coach Darryl Sutter, after the versatile winger scored twice in a 3-1 win over Edmonton.

“Look at both teams, who is the natural goal scorer? There is one guy on both teams who is a natural goal scorer.

“He only needs one chance.

“He had two chances and scored two goals and he was pissed off because he had that shorthanded breakaway he tried to come back on.

“Those guys are special players. You can’t teach guys to score.”

You can’t teach em how to rise to the occasion either, like Toffoli has done ever since arriving in Calgary.

For those keeping track at home, that’s seven goals in ten outings as a Flame.

Not bad for a lad brought in to add depth to a third line.

Sutter may be exaggerating to make a point, as Monday’s game involved a handful of the game’s top goal scorers this season, including a pair from Edmonton who had 12 points in their previous two games against Calgary.

However, on Monday none shone brighter than the Flames’ recent acquisition from Montreal, who broke a scoreless tie six minutes into the second period with a power-play finish from in tight.

Three minutes later he did it again when he finished a slick passing play from Mangiapane and Ruzicka by rocketing it past Mikko Koskinen to bring a Saddledome crowd of 17,246 to its feet.

“When you look at the goals he scores it’s not one position or the same goal,” said Jacob Markstrom of his new teammate.

“He scores on the power play, he scored in front of the net in Minnesota, he scores on the 2-on-1 and went high glove today and almost scored on the breakaway when he went around the goalie. He’s a goal scorer and it’s nice to have him on our team.”

Devin Shore – actually, make that referee Dan O’Rourke – made things interesting early in the third when a Darnell Nurse shot missed the net and bounced around to the other side of the net where the puck ricocheted off O’Rourke’s skate while the official wasn’t looking. Markstrom immediately scrambled to stop a Derek Ryan shot before Shore potted the rebound into an empty net.

Markstrom said O’Rourke apologized for the miscue, which got the Oilers back into a tight-checking game in which their big guns were held in check all night by a roving cast of characters spearheaded by Mikael Backlund’s retooled line with Trevor Lewis and Blake Coleman.

Another slick Johnny Gaudreau breakaway conversion capped the win with three minutes left, giving the hottest team in the league its 14th win in its last 16 outings.

They’ll get a chance to extend their 13-game home point streak Tuesday against Washington.

“I just think we’re playing a lot of games and we’re going to need lots of different looks,” said Sutter, when asked why he swapped Mangiapane with Lewis.

“Trying to get Ty a bit more offensive guys. I think Mang and Ty can play both wings and they can play a lot of situations. They still need the right guys with them in the long run.

“We’ve just got to work our way through it, get through the schedule part of it and keep moving guys around.”

You can bet Brad Treliving is spending the bulk of his time looking at ways to potentially address his team’s depth up the middle.

On Monday all four centres were just fine, doing well to limit McDavid and Draisaitl to four shots on a night Sutter said they looked tired.

They’ll all be tired by week’s end as the Flames have four games over the next six nights.

“I thought we did a good job containing their top guys and Marky made some big saves at the right time,” said Toffoli, whose club killed all four Edmonton power plays.

“I just think we did a good job overall not really letting them get to their game as much as they probably wanted to.

“There’s confidence in our group knowing every line in our group can create momentum and do positive things throughout the game. That’s what we do, we roll the lines. We trust our power play, our penalty kill and obviously we trust our goaltender and I think that’s the key to success.”

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