REGINA – When you’re 18 years old and trying to crack an NHL lineup, it’s tough to rest easy—even after a two-goal performance.
“Obviously there’s cuts tomorrow so we’ll see what happens,” said Sean Monahan after scoring twice to lead a Calgary Flames split squad to a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders in NHL pre-season action Tuesday.
“I’ll be pretty nervous tonight and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. But my goal is to make this team and whatever happens I’ll deal with it.”
Without the familiar faces of Jarome Iginla, Mikka Kiprusoff, Alex Tanguay and Jay Bouwmeester, there are a lot of jobs to be had.
Before the game, coach Bob Hartley said Monahan, a Brampton, Ont., native who spent last season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, has great poise and is adapting well to NHL hockey.
“He doesn’t get rattled, he’s very poised,” said Harley. “I’ll be honest with you … in many ways, his demeanour, his body language, he reminds a lot of Joe Sakic. And I know that’s big shoes to fill and I’m not saying that he’s going to fill those shoes right away, but we have big plans for this young man.”
Rounding out the scoring for Calgary was Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund with a goal each while Corban Knight set up two. Also assisting were Ben Hanowski, David Jones, Emile Poirier and Sven Baertschi.
John Tavares and Matt Moulson each had a goal and an assist for New York. Colin McDonald and Lubomir Visnovsky picked up assists.
In Calgary, another Flames split squad defeated the Islanders 5-3.
After a scoreless first, the Flames lit the Islanders up for four goals in the second.
Monahan started the scoring a minute in when he wheeled around New York’s Travis Hamonic, took a pass from Knight and wired a wrist shot over Evgeni Nabokov’s shoulder.
On the very next shift Monahan was called for interference and on the ensuing power play New York captain Tavares banged in a rebound to tie the game 1-1.
It was all Calgary after that as the Flames responded with three straight goals.
Stajan got the go-ahead goal when he snuck the puck through a crowd and under Nabokov, who was replaced a few shifts later by Ken Reiter.
Backlund gave Calgary a two-goal lead when he scored on his own rebound and Monahan buried a loose puck in front to make it 4-1 after two periods.
“I thought that this was a great effort. Our veterans really took charge and our young players, there’s some kids that put one in the bank tonight,” Hartley said.
“Some kids were really impressive.”
Moulson added one more for New York early in the third on a nice setup from Tavares, who called his team’s performance “sluggish.”
But things could have gone much differently had Calgary goaltender Karri Ramo not made two huge saves when the game was still close.
Ramo ended up making 21 saves for the win. Nabokov took the loss for the Islanders.
The matchup marked the first pre-season game for the Islanders and the fourth for the Flames.
The last time a pre-season NHL game was played in Regina was 2009 when the Ottawa Senators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 in front of 6,450 fans.
Not nearly that many showed up for this game. The attendance was never announced but the managers of the Brandt Centre told reporters 4,189 tickets were sold.