Backlund scores in OT, Flames salvage win over Red Wings
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Mikael Backlund continues to get it done all over the ice for the Calgary Flames.
Backlund scored in overtime after Detroit’s Tomas Tatar tied it with 1.8 seconds left in the third period, and Calgary beat the Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night for its sixth straight win.
After Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau nearly scored earlier in OT, Backlund blasted a shot past Petr Mrazek 3:56 into the extra session. Relied upon primarily for his defensive play, Backlund has 20 goals this season, helping the Flames pull six points ahead of Los Angeles and seven up on St. Louis for the first wild card in the Western Conference.
”A lot of belief, a lot of confidence and swagger with this group right now. We’re playing some good hockey,” said Backlund, who is tied with Sean Monahan for the team lead in goals.
Backlund’s teammates think the 27-year-old Swede deserves consideration for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL award given to the forward who best excels on defense.
”He’s known as Mikael Selke around here right now,” said rookie Matthew Tkachuk, who has played on a line with Backlund almost all season. ”For all the guys who love the Eastern Conference players, they should pay more attention to Backs.”
Kris Versteeg and Matthew Tkachuk also scored for Calgary, and Brian Elliott made 35 saves.
Darren Helm also scored for Detroit. The Red Wings opened the night 10 points out of a playoff spot and last in the Eastern Conference.
”We just want to keep playing and proving that we can be playoff team and a contending team,” Helm said. ”Obviously, we’re a little bit further out of the picture than we wanted to be but we still have a lot of pride in this dressing room and we want to finish off on a good note.”
Tatar made it 2-2 with his goal late in the third after Detroit pulled Mrazek. Seconds after Elliott stopped Henrik Zetterberg from the slot, Tatar grabbed the puck near the faceoff circle and beat the goalie over his shoulder.
In overtime, Frolik’s stick broke as he tried to one-time a pass from Backlund with an open net in front of him. Gaudreau lost control of the puck on a breakaway moments later after deking to lure Mrazek out of the net.
Elliott’s resurgence continued. After a forgettable start to the season in which he lost his starting job for a while to Chad Johnson, the veteran has been much better lately, giving Calgary the caliber of goaltending it was expecting when it acquired him from St. Louis last June.
While starting 11 of the last 14 games, Elliott has gone 9-1-1 with a .925 save percentage.
”Whenever there’s a hurdle, we’re not getting distracted by it or letting it get in our way,” Elliott said. ”You move onto the next shift and play your best for that shift. The guys have really bought into that. ”
The Flames gave up the first goal for the fifth game in a row. They fell behind 1-0 at 6:55 of the first when Helm beat Elliott on his glove side with a 40-foot wrist shot.
Versteeg’s tying goal came less than two minutes later on the Flames’ first man advantage. Sean Monahan won the faceoff and got his 100th career assist and 200th point.
Calgary took the lead at 13:07 after a giveaway by Niklas Kronwall in front of his own net. The veteran defenseman coughed up the puck to Tkachuk, who promptly deked Mrazek and slid in his 12th goal.
Mrazek had 28 stops.
NOTES: Calgary’s scratches included Curtis Lazar, acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline, and veteran D Dennis Wideman, who sat for the sixth game in a row. … The Flames have won after giving up the first goal a league-high 17 times. … Calgary improved to a league-best 25-0-1 when leading after two periods.
Red Wings: Play at Edmonton on Saturday night.
Flames: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday night.