CALGARY — Stuck on the bench for most of the first period, Michael Frolik got promoted and made the most of it.
After re-joining the second line with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, Frolik had a goal and two assists to lead the red-hot Calgary Flames to a 4-3 comeback victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
"It wasn't the start I was looking for," said Frolik, who recorded his first three-point game in three seasons. "It's not easy, you're cold, you're not in the game. When you get out there, you get a 10-second shift and then they switch the line."
Down 2-0 in the second, Frolik got the comeback started at 10:14, deflecting a shot from Backlund for his 11th goal of the season.
The Flames tied it five minutes later on a terrific set-up by Frolik. Darting down the wing, he stopped sharply after gaining the zone then patiently waited for Mark Giordano to jump into the play before sliding a perfect cross-ice pass that the Flames captain fired past Roberto Luongo.
Florida coach Bob Boughner challenged the goal, citing goaltender interference on Matthew Tkachuk, who slightly bumped Luongo seconds before it went in, but the call on the ice stood.
Another primary helper from Frolik gave Calgary the lead, 8:29 into the third. Pouncing on a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover inside the blue-line, Frolik fed Tkachuk all alone in front for his 21st goal.
"I don't know how he saw me. I was just hiding in the weeds back there and he made a great play," Tkachuk said.
Frolik has eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games since coach Bill Peters made the veteran a healthy scratch on Dec. 29. It's been a bumpy season for the veteran, who has bounced between lines and earlier in the year and missed four weeks due to injury.
"He's been awesome," said coach Bill Peters, when asked how he's handled it. "He's been great. A good pro, veteran guy. He's been in the league a long time."
Peters wanted to roll four lines, but that didn't materialize due to the early deficit, so he juggled his personnel and went down to three.
"We fell behind early and didn't have any jump, so then we had to get going with nine guys and try to get nine guys more ice time and a little bit more of an emotional attachment to the game."
Despite four wins in a row and a 7-1-1 record in their last nine, Peters is not happy with his team's play of late.
"We haven't played well here for a while and it's been masked by the fact we've got wins," said the coach.
Sean Monahan, into an empty net, also scored for Calgary (29-13-4). It would end up the game-winner after the Panthers scored with 20 seconds remaining.
Johnny Gaudreau had an assist to extend his point streak to seven games (seven goals, nine assists).
Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov replied for Florida (17-18-8). The struggling Panthers are winless in their last five.
"It seemed like we started to panic a little bit and get away from having some poise and making plays that are needed with the puck," said Hoffman. "We kept chipping it back to them and then we weren't able to change. Long change in the second period and they kept coming."
Florida is 0-2-1 on its five-game road trip, which continues Sunday in Vancouver.
"At the end of the day we had four or five glorious opportunities to go ahead in this game and get the next goal and we never did. Give their goalie some credit. He made some big saves," said Bob Boughner.
David Rittich made 24 stops to improve to 17-4-3 for the Flames. Luongo, tested 23 times, drops to 8-10-1 for Florida.
Building on a solid opening 20 minutes, the Panthers surged in front by two on Huberdeau's breakaway goal just 20 seconds into the second. Sprung in alone on a terrific pass by Keith Yandle, Huberdeau slipped a shot through Rittich's pads.
Taking advantage of a sleepy start by the Flames, who were outshot 10-4 in the opening period, Florida scored the only goal of the frame with Hoffman burying his 21st after a turnover by Noah Hanifin.
Notes: Frolik's last three-point game was against Winnipeg on March 16, 2016. Flames LW Andrew Mangiapane played his first game since Dec. 15. In 18 career NHL games, he has yet to pick up his first point. Sitting as a healthy scratch was Garnet Hathaway.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press