Monahan scores team-leading 26th goal as Flames double up Avalanche

Monahan leads Flames over Avalanche

CALGARY — Another big night for Sean Monahan’s line has the red-hot Flames one win away from clinching a playoff spot.

Monahan scored his team-leading 26th goal and added three assists Monday as Calgary won 4-2 over the floundering Colorado Avalanche.

“Confidence is big for our club. When we start going and everyone’s playing their role we’re a hard team to beat,” said Monahan, whose four-point night ties a career-high.

With six games remaining, Calgary can secure a post-season berth for just the second time in the last eight seasons with a regulation win over Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“I’m proud of the guys and the spot they’ve put themselves in,” said coach Glen Gulutzan. “A lot of hard work went into that and now we need to finish it off.”

It’s been quite a turnaround for a hockey club that in mid-November, was 5-10-1 and had the worst winning percentage in the NHL.

“There were a few dark days in this locker room, but what we’ve been able to do from December on, has been great for this room and great for this city,” said Troy Brouwer, who scored his third goal in the last four games. “To play a big game against a division rival on Wednesday and be able to clinch playoffs and get this hockey club back in the playoffs, it means a lot to everybody in here.”

Since Gulutzan put Micheal Ferland on Calgary’s top line with Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on Feb. 21, Calgary has gone 14-3-0 and that unit has been among the most productive in the NHL. Ferland and Gaudreau each had a goal and an assist on Monday.

Gaudreau’s 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) over that 17-game stretch ranks second in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. Monahan is right behind with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists). Ferland leads the three of them with seven goals to give him 15 on the season.

“It looks like a good mixture of everything,” said goaltender Brian Elliott. “Johnny has that dangerous breakaway speed, (Monahan) has the eyes to find him and (Ferland) with that lethal shot. If they find him, it’s probably in the back of the net.”

Winners of nine of their last 10 games at home, the Flames (43-29-4) remain fourth in the Pacific Division but move within one point of the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks, who each hold a game in hand.

Sven Andrighetto scored both goals for Colorado (20-52-3), his second coming with 1:54 remaining and the goalie pulled. The last-place Avalanche have lost six games in a row overall and nine straight on the road.

“We’re just trying to talk to them about being loose and playing like we have nothing to lose and making sure that we’re creating enough opportunities,” said Avs coach Jared Bednar.

Handed a power play 23 seconds into the game, Calgary immediately took advantage with Monahan’s shot deflecting in off the stick of defenceman Erik Johnson.

Ferland’s 15th goal made it 2-0 at 4:33 of the second.

After Andrighetto scored on the power play at 4:58 of the third, Brouwer’s power-play goal restored the Flames two-goal cushion.

“They’re a hot team,” said Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen. “They’re in the race for the playoffs, so it’s tough especially in their home barn.”

Elliott made 24 saves to improve to 25-14-3. The Flames goaltender is 13-1-0 in his last 14 starts.

Pickard had 23 stops for Colorado to fall to 13-27-2.

Notes: Gaudreau’s assist was his 200th point, which comes in 226 games. It’s the fastest a Flame has reached that milestone in over 25 years… Flames rookie defenceman Rasmus Andersson, still awaiting his first NHL action, was a scratch for the ninth game since being summoned from Stockton (AHL)… Calgary improved to 31-0-1 when leading after two periods.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press