Chad Johnson, Calgary Flames hand Florida Panthers third straight home loss

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 25, 2017 at 1:16 AM
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SUNRISE, Fla. -- Thanks to solid goaltending, this is becoming a marvelous road trip for the Calgary Flames.

But for the Florida Panthers, this has the makings of a miserable string of home games.

Chad Johnson made 36 saves, and Matt Tkachuk dished out two assists to lead Calgary to a 4-2 win over Florida on Friday night at the BB&T Center.

Johnson, who gave Brian Elliott a rest after he had started four straight games in goal, is 2-0-0 against the Panthers this season, allowing two goals in each win.

"Their goaltender played unbelievable," Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said of Johnson. "He won them the game."

Johnson credited Calgary's offense.

"When you score four goals, you should win the game," Johnson said. "I felt good. But I've been feeling good lately. Tonight, I got the result."

The Flames are 3-0-1 on this trip that ends Sunday at the Carolina Hurricanes. That ledger includes a current streak of three straight wins.

Calgary (32-26-4) got goals from Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Deryk Engelland and Troy Brouwer, who also added an assist.

Florida (28-22-10) has lost three consecutive home games, nearly negating their most recent road trip, which produced five straight wins.

The Panthers, who had 68 shot attempts to 38 for Calgary, got goals from Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.

"We had a great road trip, and we got our chance to get back in the playoff (picture)," said Barkov, who has 16 goals this season, including seven in his past eight games. "But right now at home, it's not good. We need to play the same way we did on the road."

Florida's Roberto Luongo took the loss on the same night he passed Ed Belfour for fourth place in NHL games played by a goalie with 964.

Calgary made the game's first mistake -- a tripping penalty by Michael Frolik against Florida's Barkov. That brought on Florida's hot power-play unit that scored on its third straight attempt over the past two games. Bjugstad got the goal as Florida put up six shot attempts in 93 seconds of power-play action.

Bjugstad's shot, which bounced in off Johnson's right arm, was set up by a pass to the left by Jussi Jokinen.

Calgary tied the score with 8:57 expired in the first period. After Kris Versteeg forced a turnover behind Florida's net, Michael Stone got a shot on goal, and Bennett scored on a juicy rebound.

The Flames went up 2-1 less than two minutes later on a goal by Backlund. Tkachuk, on the rush, fed Backlund, who had gotten behind Florida's defense, beating Luongo stick-side.

Less than four minutes later, the Flames made it 3-1. Tkachuk's seemingly harmless shot from the left circle was deflected by Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The puck handcuffed Luongo, and Frolik slapped at the rebound before teammate Engelland tucked it into the net.

Barkov scored with 2:40 remaining in the first period to cut Florida's deficit to 3-2. Barkov picked up a steal in his own end, skated down and worked a give-and-go with Jonathan Huberdeau before scoring.

In the second period, exactly two minutes after breaking Florida's power-play-goal streak at three, Calgary scored to increase its lead to 4-2. Matt Stajan, from the left corner, threaded a bullet pass to Brouwer, who scored from in front.

That was enough offensive support for Johnson, who stopped all 30 of Florida's shots in the final two periods.

"Their goalie played great," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said of Johnson. "We got a lot of looks, but we didn't get the bounce we needed."

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said his goalies -- Johnson and Elliott -- are lifting Calgary.

"Our goalies have given us a lot of belief," he said. "We weren't at our best tonight. But once Chad settled in, he took over the game in the second and third (periods)."

NOTES: Flames RW Kris Versteeg -- a former Panthers player -- played in career game No. 600. ... Flames RW Alex Chiasson played career game No. 300. ... Florida scratched C Greg McKegg and D Jakub Kindl. ... Calgary scratched C Freddie Hamilton, D Dennis Wideman and D Jyrkl Jokipakka. ... Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe praised team captain/ C Derek MacKenzie earlier this week: "Derek is in charge of that (locker) room. He's got those guys ready." ... Gerard Gallant, fired by the Panthers this season after he led the team to the 2016 Atlantic Division title, could be in line to coach the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights next season. ... Florida plays host to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

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