CALGARY, Alberta (AP)Milan Lucic and Blake Coleman scored 89 seconds apart early in the first period and the Calgary Flames beat the New York Islanders 4-1 on Friday night.
Nikita Zadorov and Nazem Kadri also scored to help Calgary win for the third time in four games. Jacob Markstrom stopped 24 shots as the Flames inched ahead of Edmonton by a point into the West’s first wild-card spot.
”Points are huge for us especially because of where we are in the standings,” Lucic said. ”Two months ago we were just hoping to win the game instead of going out there in the third and playing to win. That’s what good teams do when they have leads going into the third period. They press and play to win and that’s something we need to keep getting better at.”
Zach Parise scored for the Islanders, who were without star center Mathew Barzal (lower body injury). Semyon Varlamov, making his first start since a groin injury at Vegas on Dec. 17, finished with 17 saves as New York lost for the third time in four games on its western trip.
”I don’t think we played that bad of a game,” Parise said. ”I thought we played hard, we competed. We need the result but we didn’t get it.”
Calgary got on the scoreboard 4:36 into the game after the Islanders turned the puck over in their zone. Jonathan Huberdeau passed to Lucic for a one-timer from the faceoff circle on Varlamov’s right.
Coleman made it 2-0 at 6:05 as he got the rebound of his own shot after Varlamov made a stop on the initial backhand attempt on a rush and the forward shoveled the puck in for his seventh.
Zadorov lofted a shot from the point over Varlamov’s left shoulder with 4:39 remaining in the first to make it 3-0. It was his sixth.
Parise got the Islanders on the scoreboard with a minute remaining in the opening period. He beat Zadorov to open up a scoring lane and fired a wrist shot from the faceoff circle top corner for his 12th.
Markstrom kicked out his right pad to stop Casey Czikas on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box midway through a scoreless second period, and then denied Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a breakaway.
”It was huge,” Lucic said. ”I don’t think we were having a very good period at that time and he kept it a two-goal lead and a two-goal lead going into the third. It’s good to see him finding confidence in his game as well, and we need him to be good every night to give us a chance to win.”
Kadri restored the Flames’ three-goal lead at 6:59 of the third with a sharp-angled shot that sneaked in under the crossbar and past Varlamov’s head. It was Kadri’s 15th. Tyler Toffoli assisted on the play to extend his point streak to four straight games (one goal, three assists).
”It was just one of those ones where, he was trying to do it, so it’s nice to see it go in, especially in a 3-1 game to extend the lead,” Lucic said.
The Flames also led 3-1 after two periods against the Islanders in New York on Nov. 7. However, they gave up two goals in the third and then lost 4-3 in overtime in that one.
”I think we’ve grown,” Coleman said. ”We’re learning the importance of managing games.”
Barzal, who has 11 goals and a team-leading 30 assists, didn’t play Friday after scoring his fifth goal in five games in a 4-2 loss at Edmonton on Thursday night. The Islanders tweeted just before puck drop that Barzal was day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
”There was a little tweak last night,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. ”He tried it in warmup. Couldn’t go.”
Islanders: Host Dallas on Tuesday night to open a five-game homestand.
Flames: At Chicago on Sunday night to open a five-game trip.
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