CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Flanked by another veteran in Michael Frolik and rambunctious rookie Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary center Mikael Backlund continues to be one of the hottest players in the NHL.
Backlund scored twice in a 13-second span in the second period to break a 2-all tie and the Calgary Flames won 5-2 over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
Backlund has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) going back to Dec. 10 and his first of four three-point nights. Only four players have more points – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal and Brent Burns, who each have 21.
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”It’s been a fun ride playing with those two guys,” Backlund said. ”I’ve played with (Frolik) for a long time now and have got to know him pretty well, and adding on (Tkachuk) was great for us.”
Backlund gave Calgary its first lead on a power play at the 11:23 mark. Matthew Tkachuk deflected Mark Giordano’s point shot high in the air and over Roberto Luongo. The puck came down at the far post, where Backlund stuffed it in.
Right after that, Tkachuk’s slick pass between his own legs from behind the net set up Backlund in front, and his one-timer put the Flames ahead 4-2.
Dubbed the 3M line for their matching first initials, Frolik, Backlund and Tkachuk have consistently made up Calgary’s No. 1 line since they were first put together in late October.
”They do everything right. Most nights, they’re playing exactly the way we want to play and they’re getting rewarded for it,” Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. ”They’re three good players, who have a bit of chemistry too.”
Backlund also had an assist for his fourth three-point effort in the last 17 games. Giordano had a goal and two assists, and Kris Versteeg and Sean Monahan also scored.
Vincent Trocheck had both goals for Florida to continue his red-hot scoring. The Panthers leading scorer has nine points (five goals, four assists) during a five-game point streak.
”We didn’t play very well. I thought we came out strong in the first and then we let up,” Trocheck said. ”It’s seems to be a theme lately – every time we get up, we slack off and then it goes a little bit and then they start taking it to us.”
Calgary opened up a three-game homestand that continues Thursday against Nashville. The Panthers, whose four-game road winning streak came to an end, kicked off a four-game trip that lands them in Edmonton on Wednesday.
Down 2-1 after 20 minutes despite a 10-5 edge in shots, Calgary kept the pressure on to start the second with Giordano tying it at 4:25 on the man advantage. It was the fourth of eight consecutive Flames shots to open the second period as Roberto Luongo faced a constant barrage.
Luongo finished with 24 saves to fall to 13-12-5.
Chad Johnson, who was only tested 22 times, improves to 16-10-1.
It wasn’t a very good start for Johnson, who got beat on two of the first three shots he faced, both coming on similar-looking wrist shots from the slot that went over his glove.
In between the Trocheck goals at 3:46 and 8:25, Versteeg got the Flames on the scoreboard at 6:39 when his seeing-eye backhander from off the wing slid into the far corner behind Luongo, who was screened by Troy Brouwer and didn’t see it.
Calgary’s power play continued its dangerous ways of late. Ranked 30th in the NHL at the end of November at 10.4 percent (8 for 77). It’s been the league’s best since at 32.9 percent (24 for 73).
NOTES: Up 4-2, Calgary had goals by Freddie Hamilton and Lance Bouma both reversed when they were ruled offside after video review. … Micheal Ferland (lower body) missed his third game. With Garnet Hathaway (upper body) also sidelined, Freddie Hamilton drew in on the Flames fourth line after being scratched in 17 of the last 19 games. … Calgary C Sam Bennett has no points in his last 10 games.