CALGARY – It wasn’t a three-goal game for Sean Monahan, to the chagrin of the unwitting Saddledome patrons who mistakenly threw their hats onto the ice on his last-minute goal.
It was still a big night, though, for the slumping centre.
Monahan scored twice to set a new career high in goals and also added two assists, leading the Calgary Flames to a 6-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
“I’m getting some confidence back, putting the puck in the net. That’s huge,” said Monahan, who hadn’t scored since March 12.
Both of his goals Friday, as well as a second-period goal originally credited to him but later changed to James Neal on a deflection, came from the slot, where he’s been burying pucks since breaking into the NHL in 2013.
“That’s where you’ve got to score, especially myself. That’s where I’ve scored a lot of my goals,” said Monahan, whose 171 career goals tops the 2013 draft class, where the Flames selected him sixth overall.
Monahan entered the night with two goals in his last 19 games, but he broke out that slump in a big way and is up to 33 on the year — surpassing his previous career best of 31 goals.
“Not playing well for a while, to break out and do that, obviously, it’s a good feeling,” Monahan said.
Mike Smith, who had 21 stops for the victory, says it was only a matter of time for Monahan.
“Mony’s been such a good player for us all year. It’s going to happen where you’re not at the top of your game every single moment,” said Smith. “He’s been a positive guy that’s worked real hard and he deserved everything he got tonight.”
After a rocky start to the season, Smith has been a model of consistency lately, having given up two goals or less in 10 of his last 11 starts. His save percentage has now reached .900 now for the first time since October 10.
Smith’s biggest stop was a breakaway save off Max Jones in the first period, just seconds before Mark Giordano tied it at 15:32.
“It’s a different game if we go down two there. It was an important save and then (Giordano) goes down and blasts one through,” Smith said. “That always feels good as a goalie to make a big save like that and have your team go down to the other end and capitalize on the chance. That was a big moment in the game.”
Ryan Miller finished with 31 saves. He falls to 7-7-2.
“He kept us in it, but you’ve got to score more than one goal, usually, if you’re going to win,” said Ducks forward Devin Shore. “You feel for him. He’s battling and it’s unfortunate, we didn’t match his compete level.”
Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway also scored for Calgary (48-23-7).
Andy Welinski, with his first NHL goal, scored for Anaheim (32-27-10).
Seeking their first division title since 2005-06 and first conference title since 1989-90, the Flames extended their lead atop the Pacific Division and Western Conference to eight points over San Jose. The Sharks have five games remaining including a home date with Calgary on Sunday.
“That’s our goal,” said Monahan. “You play 82 games in a season and you want to be in first place. You take pride in that and playing for this organization. Those two points are huge.”
The injury-ravaged Ducks, already eliminated from playoff contention, are 1-1-1 on their four-game road trip, which wraps up Saturday night in Edmonton.
“We really stuck with them through the first, we played a good period on the road, but they were relentless. They didn’t slow down and I think that wore on us,” Welinski said.
Tied 1-1 after the first period, Calgary took its first lead 3:37 into the second when Monahan knocked in Rasmus Andersson’s rebound.
Just over six minutes later, Monahan’s shot from the slot deflected off Neal and past Miller for a power-play goal, making it 3-1.
The goal snapped a 0 for 21 skid for the man advantage over the previous eight-plus games.
Notes: Monahan’s first goal ended a stretch of 156:12 without a goal from a forward… Calgary departs on a three-game California road trip before finishing the season at home against Edmonton next Saturday… Anaheim has lost 407 man-games to injury.
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