CALGARY — As expected, Mark Giordano stole the show in his return to Calgary Wednesday night.
It took less than 30 seconds into the opening national anthem for Saddledome faithful to start cheering for the longtime Flames captain.
Those cheers turned into a spontaneous roar when he got the puck off the opening draw.
Soon thereafter he exchanged shoves with Elias Lindholm after a hit in front of the Flames’ bench, reminding us all, life goes on.
Giving a crowd of roughly 9,000 what they wanted (well, sort of), Giordano opened the scoring three minutes in with a backhand that found its way through Dan Vladar to open the scoring.
Cue the “Gio, Gio” chants.
“It was nice to see the fans giving him the Gio chants during and between anthems,” smiled Milan Lucic, following the Flames 4-3 shootout loss to Giordano’s Seattle Kraken. “I think it will go up a notch Dec. 23 when he has his real comeback to Calgary. For him I’m sure it was nice to get a goal in Calgary — his first with Seattle.”
The Flames hastily cobbled together a short tribute video that was played for Giordano midway through the first period, which he followed by jumping over the boards to take a few twirls saluting and thanking the crowd.
Call it a bonus visit as no one expected the 37-year-old to play.
Giordano explained that he wanted to get the first visit under his belt as the newly-formed Kraken need to quickly build familiarity ahead of their inaugural season opener.
The chemistry sure seemed to be there between Giordano and Adam Larsson, as a formidable top pairing.
Giordano, who will most likely be named captain of the Kraken, was wearing an A on his jersey, as were Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz.
The Flames, who’ve said they’ll take their time before naming a captain to replace Giordano, had Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Chris Tanev as alternate captains Wednesday.
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
• One of the great storylines that could be playing out in Seattle revolves around a defensive pairing of two brothers: Cale and Haydn Fleury. Cale, who is a 22-year-old righty, lined up alongside his 25-year-old brother Wednesday night. On an expansion team with some pretty solid defensive options, the natives of Carlyle, Sask., could quickly become household names in Seattle if they can remain blue-line partners.
• Those on hand Wednesday got a reminder of how exciting the roar of the crowd can be when Backlund tied the game in the dying minutes. Alas, Eberle’s shootout snipe silenced the building, leaving the Flames 0-2-1 in the pre-season. Their next game is Friday, hosting Vancouver.
• Sutter’s frank assessment of Vladar, who let in three goals in 21 shots: “He had a rough night.”
• Two notables who are pushing to be amongst the first call-ups of the season — Glenn Gawdin and Oliver Kylington — had good showings. Gawdin looks to be a solid penalty killer and Kylington was paired with Tanev to play more minutes than anyone in the game, at 24:27. He got plenty of ice time in overtime where Sutter wanted to see him use his speed and offensive instincts.
“We need mobility back there — that’s obvious,” said the coach.
• It didn’t seem all that long ago that overtime was an exciting brand of firewagon hockey, with teams trading Grade A chances at both ends in an exciting show of speed, skill and creativity.
Both teams circled back out of the offensive zone endlessly in a five-minute skating show that featured a lone shot, from the Flames. Neither team wanted to make a mistake.
“Both teams, one shot — not sure you count that as a scoring chance,” said Sutter. “You need the puck. Misconception of overtime is it’s all stretch plays. It’s close together with speed.”
To emphasize his strategy works, Sutter pointed out his overtime success in Los Angeles.
“I’m used to winning overtimes,” he said. “Came from an organization that still holds the record for the most. It’s not something we’ve practiced or talked about.”
• Sean Monahan has been centering the second line between Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane during camp, but due to his hip surgery last fall the team has held him out of all three pre-season games to protect him as much as possible for a fresh start opening night. Backlund took his spot Wednesday.
• The latest Flames lines: