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Flames rally around Kylington, Markstrom in comeback win over Jets


After missing a season and a half due to personal matters, Calgary Flames blueliner Oliver Kylington had to wait eight games before notching his first goal of the season – but the wait was well worth it.

Four minutes into the opening period of their 6-3 comeback victory versus the Winnipeg Jets, Kylington took the puck at his own blueline, rushed up the ice, split the defenders, and backhanded a puck underneath the glove hand of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. It was Kylington’s first goal in 628 days.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Nazem Kadri, who had three points in the win. 

“Very happy for him. The guys are happy for him, rallied around him. Pretty sick fashion, too. Going coast-to-coast like Bobby [Orr]. Nice to see. I’m very proud of the journey he’s had and to come back and contribute is good to see.”

Kylington displayed his trademark skating stride on the snipe.

“I saw ice,” Kylington said. “I just tried to take it.

“I wouldn’t say I’m Bobby,” he added, when told of Kadri’s compliment. “It’s Bobby. [He’s] one of a kind, but I just tried to take ice and use what I’m good at. Today it went in.”

Even head coach Ryan Huska got caught up in the moment and hearing the Saddledome fans cheer as his name was announced.

“I had a smile on my face,” he said.

“He’s gone through a lot so it’s nice to see him come back and do that and not just that. He’s contributing in a lot of different ways … people know who scored that goal too. I thought there was a lot of noise after that, which was really nice to see.”

The Flames (26-25-5, 57 points, sixth in the Western Conference wild-card race) also rallied around goalie Jacob Markstrom, who was pulled on Saturday after allowing four goals on 12 shots in a 5-0 loss to Detroit. 

The 34-year-old, who has been the subject of plenty of trade speculation in recent weeks, stopped 28 of 31 shots. Late in the first period, Markstrom stoned former Flame Sean Monahan, who already had three goals and was on a shorthanded two-on-one, to keep Calgary within striking distance. 

That glove save kick-started the Flames rally. 

“The save that Jacob made could have made it 4-1 at that situation and that’s probably game over,” Huska said.

“It would have been easy to let that slide out of control, but that’s not the guy he is,” Kadri said. “He resets and he refocuses … he’s one of the most competitive goaltenders I’ve ever played with. I can count on him to reset and shut the door … it would have been easy for him to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an off night. [I’ll] reset tomorrow.’ But he fights. He battles and we saw that tonight.”

The Flames continue to be the epicentre of trade talks in the NHL, with Markstrom and blueliners Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev at the top of TSN’s Trade Bait list

The players were asked this week about handling the outside noise. Most have shrugged it off, but until March 8 comes and goes, there will be plenty more questions about the future of the team. 

“What noise are you talking about?” Markstrom said after the loss on Saturday. 

“Everyone here is professional, paid to play hockey. That’s all you can do. We have to keep doing it. We have been doing it all year, and you guys have been talking about it all year. We just have to play.”

When questioned about himself specifically, he countered: “Right now, I’m not thinking about it. I just got pulled early in the second period, so it’s bad timing for that question.”

Kadri admitted that he pays attention but doesn’t believe everything he reads.

"You've gotta think more than half of it is bullsh*t,” he said earlier this week. 

“I don't really pay too much attention to it, honestly … you scroll through some articles but at the end of the day, who really knows?"

Despite talk of a retool or reset, Kadri made it known postgame on Sunday that there will be no talk of losing in the Flames locker room and that their win proved what they’re capable of.

“I’m not here to lose,” he said.

“I’m not here to lose games. None of us are. I can’t stand that aspect of it, but … that’s the name of the game. Someone’s gotta lose every night. You’ve gotta try to win more than you lose, but this is a top hockey team in Winnipeg and we came out, had a solid effort, and got the job done.”