The Associated Press
BUFFALO, N.Y.–Calgary Flames’ rookie goalie David Rittich cared little about missing out on his first career shutout bid with 18 seconds left.
The first 25 shots he stopped mattered more–and Calgary snapping a four-game skid to gain ground in a tightly-contested Western Conference playoff race with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night.
“How we get the two points, that’s more important right now,” stressed Rittich, who bounced back after a six-game stretch during which he went 1-4-1 and allowed 24 goals.
“Yeah, it’s big for me right now,” he added. “I had a couple, I’m not sure if it was bad, but the scores were terrible.
“Yeah, it’s a nice comeback.”
Rittich’s only blemish was allowing Casey Nelson’s goal in the closing moments.
Otherwise, Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, and Mark Giordano each had a goal and an assist while Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton also scored for Calgary.
Coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday, the Flames improved to 1-3-1 in their past five.
With 76 points, Calgary jumped into 10th place–a point ahead of idle St. Louis and within one of L.A. and Colorado.
The Flames won at Buffalo for just the second time in 14 trips (2-8-3 and a tie), and first time in regulation since a 3-1 win back on March 15, 1996.
The way Calgary dominated a game it outshot Buffalo 41-26 had coach Glen Gulutzan believing the Flames might be heating up just in time to mount a late-season playoff push.
“You need traction,” he stressed. “Our team, when they get confident, they can get on a real good run.
We’ve done it before.
“Every little step is a big step for us,” Gulutzan added.
Buffalo, meanwhile, squandered a chance to win three-straight at home for the first time since a 4-0 run in January, 2017, and came out inexplicably flat two days after a 5-3 win over Toronto.
“It’s difficult to swallow,” coach Phil Housley said, noting the Sabres failed to match the Flames’ intensity.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Arizona edged Vancouver 2-1 and Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia 5-2.