An NHL playoff berth secured in the hours before Saturday’s puck drop, the Calgary Flames turned a quiet start to a game into a goal-fest in a 9-1 thumping of the visiting Arizona Coyotes.
Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each scored twice and had two assists for the Flames, while Elias Lindholm also posted a four-point night with a goal and three assists.
Calgary missed the single point needed to secure a trip to the post-season Thursday in a 6-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
It was their archrival Edmonton Oilers helping lock Calgary into the post-season Saturday by beating the Knights 4-0 in regulation before the puck dropped at Calgary’s Saddledome.
The Flames, 46-20-9 atop the Pacific Division, became the third Western Conference club to nail down a playoff spot following the Colorado Avalanche on April 6 and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
“It’s really difficult to make the playoffs,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. “Only half the teams in the league do it. We made the playoffs with two weeks left in the season.”
The Avalanche secured first in the Western Conference on Saturday with a 7-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Calgary has seven games remaining in their regular season, including two at home.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Tkachuk said. “We know we’re in a position now where we’re going to play a team that’s going to have been playing well going into the playoffs to make it. Home ice is huge. We’re playing for that and trying to play good hockey going into it.”
Arizona scored in the first minute of the game to lead 1-0 after a period, but the Flames exploded for four goals in a span of two minutes 33 seconds starting 38 seconds into the second period.
Four goals in three minutes 11 seconds was the third-fastest four goals to start a period in NHL history and the quickest in 45 years, according to the league.
“It was exciting not only for us. Think the fans are fired up. We were fired up,” Gaudreau said. “At that point, it’s only a three-goal game and we needed to keep pushing.”
As the Flames kept filling Arizona’s net, the Saddledome chanted “we want 10.”
Gaudreau’s four-point night increased his total to 105 this season. Tkachuk and Lindholm collected their 39th goals and Gaudreau his 36th in front of 16,823. The last Flame to crack the 40-goal mark in a season was Jarome Iginla in 2010-11.
Dillon Dube also scored twice with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman Calgary’s other goal scorers. Flames starter Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win after he was pulled in two straight games for Dan Vladar.
“I wanted Markstrom to get sharp, first and foremost, right, get a whole game under his belt,” Sutter said. “I don’t put a whole lot into the first period or any of the rest of it, to be quite honest. It was about winning a game.”
Nick Ritchie replied for Arizona (22-48-5), playing out the string in the NHL’s basement.
Coyotes starter Harri Sateri was pulled for Karel Vejmelka after giving up four goals on four shots to start the second period, but returned to the game and stopped 24 of 31 shots overall in the loss.
Vejmelka turned away eight of 10 shots in 16:49 minutes of work.
“Obviously goaltending’s an issue for them,” Sutter said. “They used one guy twice.”
Since losing the Stanley Cup final in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 — with Sutter also behind Calgary’s bench then — the Flames have exited the playoffs in the first round seven times and were ousted in the second round in 2015.
Calgary missed the playoffs in 2021.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for our team from where we were at least year to this year,” Gaudreau said. “Proud of the guys in the locker room, but work starts now.
“We’ve got to try and put ourselves in a good spot for the rest of the year. Maybe try to get home ice for most of the playoffs if we can and get ready for round one.”
The Coyotes scored 30 seconds after the opening faceoff on their first shot of the game, which was their first goal in the first minute of a game this season.
NOTES: The Flames’ record for the fastest four goals scored is one minute 21 seconds set by Theo Fleury, Gary Suter, Chris Lindberg and Ron Stern in a 1993 game against the San Jose Sharks … Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov reached a career 100 points with the first of his two assists … Mangiapane’s two points gave him 51 this season, which is a career high.