SUN Hockey Pool

Milestone markers help Flames tame Panthers

Goaltender Joey MacDonald of the Calgary Flames stops a second period shot by Jesse Winchester of...

Goaltender Joey MacDonald of the Calgary Flames stops a second period shot by Jesse Winchester of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on April 4, 2014. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images/AFP)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

Kenny Agostino not only gets to return home to New Jersey as a full-fledged NHLer but he has some precious cargo in his hands.

Agostino, the Yale University product who was acquired in the Jarome Iginla trade late last year and joined the Calgary Flames a couple of weeks ago, collected his first NHL goal en route to their 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

“It’s nice to get the first one out of the way, especially going back to Jersey now. I’m happy to not have the pressure to get it now at home,” Agostino said moments before posing with the puck for a photo op.

After a scoreless and listless opening frame before the announced crowd of 12,055 fans at the BB&T Center, the left winger, playing his fifth big-league tilt and readying for a return to his home state when the club faces the New Jersey Devils to end its road swing, put some excitement in to the night early in the second period with his milestone marker.

Brian McGrattan’s shot attempt from the high slot bounced right to Agostino as he went down the wing and he fired a short-side offering over the blocker of Cats netminder Roberto Luongo.

Agostino referred to it as a broken play.

McGrattan saw it another way, winger Michael Cammalleri divulged.

“It’s nice to see Aggie get his first one. It was a nice shot, a real nice shot,” said Cammalleri, who knows a thing or two about big-league shots that light the lamp. “Grats thinks it was a drop pass — it looked a little more like a poke check by the defenceman — but we’ll go with the drop-pass.”

(By the way, McGrattan retrieved the memento.)

Cammalleri also reached a milestone from the other side of the spectrum with his game-winning goal, his 500th point which came by converting a fantastic cross-ice pass from Jiri Hudler.

“It’s special to reach certain benchmarks like that,” Cammalleri said with his milestone puck sitting in his stall. “Whenever something like that happens, it gives you a second to reflect and appreciate what we get to do and all the people that have helped you.

“I think my best hockey is ahead of me, so I look forward to many more.”

The way Cammalleri has produced since the trade deadline, he could have many more before the season concludes just over a week from now.

Cammalleri, who was the subject of all kinds of rumours leading up to the trade deadline but surprisingly wasn’t dealt, has netted 12 goals and 21 points in the 17 games since d-day.

Backup goalie Joey MacDonald made 34 saves for the Flames (33-38-7), who claimed a Florida sweep despite missing all kinds of players due to injuries and other reasons, with Mikael Backlund joining the list due to an injury suffered in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the host Tampa Bay Lightning.

“He’s a battler out there,” said Cammalleri, which prompted a reminder of the highlight-reel, old-school, pad-stacking save MacDonald made early in the third period. “Gump Worsley -tyle. There might have been a Gump reference or two thrown around here.”

The Flames, who played a franchise-record 47th one-goal game this season, have climbed into 26th place in the overall standings — one point ahead of the New York Islanders, who do have two games in hand.

“It’s a big win,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. “I don’t care that we don’t make the playoffs. I don’t care we’re at the end of the season. It’s an investment. We’re asking the guys to play playoff hockey, and I think we’ve shown it.”

Vincent Trocheck scored the lone goal for the Panthers (27-43-8), while Luongo stopped 15 shots in his 800th career game on his 35th birthday for a team which sits 28th overall in the standings ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres.

The Flames face the Devils on Monday (5 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan) before returning to Calgary for their final two home dates of the campaign.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” said Agostino of the homecoming up next on the schedule. “I’ve got a lot of buddies from Yale driving down, a lot of Jersey friends and family.

“Ticket requests are getting out of control.”


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