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Big brother prevails as Matthew Tkachuk’s Flames beat Brady’s Senators

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OTTAWA — Kneeling opposite one another at centre ice during pre-game warmup, Matthew Tkachuk got his first glimpse of the C on brother Brady’s jersey.

Asked afterward what he was laughing about as he pointed to the A on his chest, he took the opportunity to do what older brothers typically do: remind everyone who the boss is.

“Deep down he knows I make the calls back home when we’re together in the summer,” chuckled Matthew, following the Flames’ 4-0 win over Brady’s short-handed Senators.

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“He can be the captain of his team. He’s got me on that, because I’m not the captain of mine.

“But he knows who is captain in the summer.”

Pausing ever so slightly, he caught himself.

“It’s probably my mom, honestly,” added Matthew.

“But when it’s me and him, he knows who it is.”

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Matthew’s Flames certainly called all the shots Sunday in a one-sided affair most could have predicted, given the Senators have 10 players in COVID-19 protocol.

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However, having gifted a similarly depleted San Jose Sharks team two points last week, not to mention being embarrassed by a far inferior Senators squad all last season, the Flames knew they couldn’t take anything for granted.

“We probably made that mistake against San Jose, looking too much ahead of them,” said Matthew.

“That was a tough lesson learned. Teams like that work harder than when they have all their top guys and regulars in. They worked hard tonight, but I thought we worked smarter. We knew we were idiots if we would have looked past them.”

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Andrew Mangiapane’s 10th of the season opened the scoring late in the first, followed by second-period goals from Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk that set the stage for a Nikita Zadorov snipe in the third. Uneventful, just as the Flames wanted.

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While the brother act dominated the talk heading into the game, all the chatter in Calgary afterward will revolve around backup goalie Dan Vladar’s second consecutive start.

A tidy 27 saves later, the man who was Calgary’s first star in Toronto two nights earlier had his first NHL shutout.

Asked if he was surprised by the assignment, the soft-spoken, 24-year-old shrugged.

“It’s my job to be ready for every single game and if I get the call I have to give my team a chance to win,” said the Czech rookie, who is now 3-0-1.

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“We haven’t won for three games in a row, so I thought we came with the mindset we wanted to win tonight, and it just worked out. From the get-go we were just the better team, and more focused team. I had no rebounds, so, easy game for me.”

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He’s right, although things can be made to look easier than they are when you combine being 6-foot-5 with being positionally sound.

Asked where the puck from his milestone effort would be going, he smiled.

“I heard I’m going to get it framed, I’m super excited about that,” he said.

“I think we just came with the right mindset tonight.”

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The first man to congratulate him at the final buzzer was Oliver Kylington, who had apologized to Vladar on Friday after his fanned clearing attempt wound up snapping the goalie’s shutout bid late in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On this night, Kylington’s ongoing brilliance led directly to Mangiapane’s league-leading ninth road goal after the 24-year-old defender stepped up to intercept a pass and fed it to Sean Monahan, whose shot was deftly redirected in.

Kylington now has points in nine of his last 10 games to lead all Flames blue-liners in points.

Coach Darryl Sutter said the decision to start Vladar was made for two reasons, namely the fact he wanted the red-hot youngster to experience the weight of consecutive starts, while also spelling Jacob Markstrom off for what should be five days between starts by the time he plays in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“Same (as) his last game, I thought he was really good around the net,” said Sutter.

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“Those are tough starts for the classic backup guy. That’s part of being an NHL player. He’s showing that as we go. We’re still learning lots about him, but he’s learning how we want him to play too.”

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The game marked Walker Duehr’s NHL debut, making the college free agent signing the first player in NHL lore from South Dakota.

His rookie lap was uneventful, as were his eight minutes of ice time.

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The 23-year-old Duehr was discovered by Flames college scout Billy Powers while constantly monitoring his teammate at Minnesota State Mankato — Connor Mackey.

Duehr replaced Tyler Pitlick in the lineup.





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