CALGARY – It was a night of Finnish firsts.
Markus Granlund’s first NHL goal helped fellow rookie Joni Ortio record his first NHL win Wednesday night as the Calgary Flames beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1.
Born exactly two years apart, 20-year-old Granlund and his older countryman are key parts of the future for the rebuilding Flames. Their memorable night comes six days after they made their NHL debut together in Calgary’s first game back from the Olympic break.
“The coincidences keep coming,” said Ortio, who had 30 saves. “We got to debut together. Now his first goal and my first win. I’m glad to see him out there and doing well.”
The two close friends have spent most of the season at Abbotsford in the American Hockey League where they established themselves as two of the Heat’s top players.
“We’re good friends so it’s nice. He had a great game,” said Granlund, who was playing his fourth game.
Ortio admits it was a night they didn’t see coming back in September at training camp.
“Back then, we thought it was a longshot. I don’t think either one of us expected to play up top this year but I’m happy it’s turned out this way,” Ortio said.
Ortio’s performance comes on the day where his place in the NHL got a lot more secure after the Flames traded first-year Swiss goaltender Reto Berra. Ortio will now share the crease with Karri Ramo when he returns from injury.
Granlund scored 2:04 into the first period, set up on the play by Max Reinhart, who in his first NHL shift of the season, neatly stripped the puck from Zack Smith at the Senators blue-line and got the puck over to his linemate.
The Flames would never look back as Paul Byron, Joe Colborne and Mike Cammalleri also scored for Calgary (24-31-7). Rookie Sean Monahan chipped in with two assists. The Flames have won six of their last seven games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Kyle Turris, with his 20th of the season, scored the lone goal for Ottawa (27-25-11). The Senators, who have lost four of their last five, will wrap up a four-game road trip in Winnipeg on Saturday.
“Right now, there’s no push back like when we got down 1-0,” said Senators winger Bobby Ryan. “We should be more resilient than we have been. Maybe it’s a sign of wanting it too badly that you get down by one and you get away from everything because everyone wants to be the guy that goes and gets that tying goal or next goal.”
The game came after a busy NHL trade deadline day in which the two teams went in different directions.
Ottawa was a buyer, adding Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the day. After scoring twice against the Senators on Tuesday night, the 30-year-old had two shots in 15:55 minutes of ice time, playing on a line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.
“It’s no disappointment at all. It’s flat out not good enough in this league,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “We didn’t play hard enough last night. We didn’t play hard enough tonight to get anything out of the game. We can’t expect our goaltender to save us with the way that we’ve played. Three of the last four games coming out of the Olympic break we’ve been terrible from start to finish.”
Calgary, meanwhile, was a seller, trading Berra and winger Lee Stempniak. As a result, Calgary’s line-up featured seven rookies.
“For our team meeting, I told them this is our team so let’s go,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “The players deserve the reputation of being one of the hardest working teams in the league and I said, ‘we’re not going to throw this away in the last stretch.'”
Calgary took a 2-0 lead at 9:12 of the second period on Byron’s first goal in 20 games. Colborne made it 3-0 at 17:13.
“We don’t play hard enough long enough to even give ourselves a chance to win,” MacLean said. “That’s certainly not a team battling for a playoff spot. That’s a team that’s conceding a playoff spot.”
Turris ended Ortio’s shutout bid at 10:24 of the third.
Anderson had 24 saves for Ottawa to fall to 20-14-8.
Hartley was impressed by his young line-up that included three call ups from the minors earlier in the day.
“The American Hockey League is the best school for a young player. Not only do they play but the mental aspect with all the travelling, three games in three nights. That develops character, that develops pride and once they get here, usually they’re ready,” said Hartley. “Those guys contributed very well for us tonight and that’s credit to Troy Ward and his staff at Abby.”
The Flames lost two players to injury. Dennis Wideman (upper body) left the game after two periods and in the opening minute of the third, Hudler (upper body) was lost after he was knocked heavily into the boards by Clarke MacArthur. They’ll both be re-evaluated on Thursday.
Notes: Corban Knight playing his first NHL game for the Flames… Calgary was without LW TJ Galiardi, injured at practice on Tuesday and David Jones (upper body), who is out indefinitely. Matt Stajan (personal) is also away from the club… Ottawa LW Cory Conacher is off to Buffalo after being claimed by the Sabres off waivers… The Flames 12 forwards dressed had a combined salary of $17.5 million – $10 million of that was Cammalleri and Hudler… Calgary won for the first time in nine tries, wearing its third jersey, which is new this year. They lost the previous eight games — all of them on home ice.