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3M line dominates in lopsided win over Panthers

Backlund, Tkachuk, Frolik combine for seven points

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY -- Sorry, paranormal theorists, but it can't be put down to some manner of eerie ESP, clairvoyance, mental telepathy or Vulcan mind-meld connection.

Simply good old-fashioned hockey sense.

"Acutally,'' confessed Mikael Backlund. "I hollered for the puck.

"He said if I hadn't called for it, he wouldn't have made the pass."

Backlund then permitted himself a slight smile at the intuition, the purity and the sheer audacity involved in the doing.

"Still a pretty sweet pass, though."

Off the boards, teenager Matthew Tkachuk flinging the puck between his feet to the near post while careening around the net and the old pro Roberto Luongo caught looking off in another direction?

Triple-fudge chocolate brownie sweet.

"One of the top lines in the league, for sure, both ends,'' lauded skipper Mark Giordano. "But we've been saying that all year.

"Can't say much more. The goals they've been scoring are huge. Backs has taken that step up to a No.1 centreman and run with it.

"They get rewarded for defensive play, which is what we want to be all about. They get above pucks, make good plays and good decisions.

"It's been fun to watch.'' 

A joy, actually.

Video: Flames roll behind four unanswered goals in 5-2 win

The Swedish-U.S.-Czech alliance delivered on cue again Tuesday, piling up seven points Tuesday evening - Backlund with three, Tkachuk and Michael Frolik two apiece - as the Flames toppled the Florida Panthers 5-2.

Not even two reviewed goals overturned for being offside or an early 2-1 hole at the first intermission could deter Calgary's incessant march on this night.

They beat down Luongo's door like a bail bondsman looking to foreclose over the second period, outshooting the Floridians 14-6 while overturning the disadvantage and seizing control of the game.

Swinging around the net like a World Cup bobsledder taking a sharp corner, the ever-industrious Frolik spied Giordano instinctively sliding up into the slot, who fired the puck home to knot the score at 2-2 via the powerplay at 4:25.

Then Backlund and Tkachuk went to work, a deflection by the No.6 overall pick in last summer's draft cartwheeling into the air and landing nicely to count Calgary's second man-advantage goal of the night.

A mere 13 seconds later (seven ticks off the back-to-back franchise goal record held by Lanny McDonald), Backlund, with that holler, was the recipient of Tkachuk's cheeky pass to put the home side up 4-2.

"I didn't think their shift was that long on the first one,'' explained Gulutzan of throwing the line back out on the ice immediately after the PP tally. "And sometimes when you've got a little mojo going it's good to get them out there was much as you can."

"I didn't think he'd have 21 apples (assists) already but that just shows how well he's been playing,'' praised Backlund of the freshman left-winger.

"He's so solid with the puck on the boards, in our zone and offensively, too."

The rookie sure has the hang of this NHL thing.

"I go into every game with confidence that I can make a difference,'' said Tkachuk. "Whether that's by making plays or being a little high risk.

"Those two have proven to be really good defensively over their careers and I'm just kinda following their lead as they teach me how to play at both ends.

"I just go out and try to make those two guys better because Backs and Fro are making me look a lot better."

Gulutzan couldn't agree more.

"They do everything right,'' he said.

"Most nights they're playing exactly the way we want to play and they are getting rewarded for it.

"But they're three good players with a bit of chemistry, too.

"I thought the pass from behind the net from Tkachuk was a pretty neat pass."

Florida's 20-minute mirage came courtesy of Luongo and two goals from centre Vincent Trocheck. 

If Trocheck had been at a carnival shooting gallery and trying to hit metal ducks or clowns, he'd have walked off the midway toting all the plush toys.

Video: Mikael Backlund on the Flames' 5-2 win Tuesday night

Picking the same spot twice on Flames' goaltender Chad Johnson - high, glove-side, over the left shoulder - the 23-year-old Pittsburgh-born pivot bumped his seasonal goal aggregate to 16.

The first arrived at 3:46. The second at 8:25 after a wide shot attempt by Matthew Tkachuk and a gambling pinch from Doug Hamilton set the Panthers off in the opposite direction 3-on-1.

Ignoring his options, Trochek, peeking up, zipped a shot in the identical place at 8:25. 

In between, Kris Versteeg's along-the-ice backhander had somehow eluded Luongo, Troy Brouwer loitering with a screen nearby.

"I liked our resolve,'' said Gulutzan. "We made a couple mistakes early that cost us. But we stuck to our game, for the most part we had the better looks, the better chances, were carrying the play.

"Even when we got down the mentality, the mindset, just the whole aura on the bench didn't change."

The win came on the back of Saturday's evenly-contested 2-1 shootout loss up north at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

"I didn't think we needed a bounce-back game from Saturday,'' said Gulutzan. "I thought we played well enough Saturday to put ourselves in a position to win.

"But I wanted to duplicate the effort and the way we came out with a purpose in Edmonton.

"And I thought for the most part we did that."

The three-point outing pushed Backlund to a team-topping 32 points.

Tkachuk has now nestled into second at 29, while Frolik's tied for fourth with 27.

Not that seeing himself atop the pecking order in any way, shape or form impresses Mr. Backlund.

"That's not my goal,'' he countered swiftly. "My goal is to make playoffs.

"I've seen enough of the early exits."

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