CALGARY, AB -- With Karri Ramo racing to the bench on a delayed penalty call in overtime’s infancy, Mikael Backlund swapped a glance with Joe Colborne that might as well have read, ‘Have a seat. I’ve got this’.
Turns out he did.
Jumping over the boards just a few minutes into the extra session -- Calgary’s first of the playoffs, first since April 16, 2009, and their first on home ice since April 22, 2007 -- Backlund promptly ended the game 4:24 into overtime, sailing a shot by Frederik Andersen to lift the Flames to a 4-3 win in Game 3 and usher his club back into the series.
The perfect time, he’d admit, to score his first ever NHL playoff goal.
“That was something I’ve been dreaming of, something I’ve told myself before the third period I was going to do, too,” Backlund said. “I’ve got to go in with that mindset if I want to play well. That’s what I was just trying to tell myself. It was an amazing feeling. It’s hard to describe.”
It might not have happened if not for a quick exchange between Backlund and Colborne.
With the referee’s arm raised in the air and Ramo dashing to the bench, Colborne was ready to jump on to provide Calgary with a sixth attacker. A look over at Backlund, and recalling the protocol for such a situation, he yielded.
It was the right call.
With Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau already on the ice, etiquette states the next centre up is the next player over the boards on a delayed penalty.
“I was just excited in the moment,” Colborne said. “I wanted to make sure someone was going to jump and we weren’t going to stand and look at each other. It’s the next centre and sometimes we’ll see [Hudler] hop out there. Its kind of a…you quickly have a glance down the bench and if he’s feeling it or Johnny’s out there feeling it then they’ll jump, other than that it’s the next center.
“Thank goodness it was [Backlund] that jumped.”
As much credit as he’ll get for the goal, shaking off Colborne, who scored earlier in the game, set the wheels in motion for Backlund.
“[Colborne] was hungry but we looked at each other and he gave me the nod and I jumped on,” he said.
The goal was the latest reminder to themselves, their fans and the National Hockey League that there’s plenty of bend in the Calgary Flames. There’s little break.
And despite coming back when trailing after 40 minutes 10 times in the regular season and another pair of entries in the Stanley Cup Playoffs heading into Game 3, plenty of shock still exists.
Staring down the barrel of a 3-0 deficit in the Western Conference Second Round best-of-7 against the Ducks, the Flames found their bounce back.
The Flames shrugged off a no-goal call on Sam Bennett’s wraparound attempt on Andersen that would’ve tied the game 3-3 with six minutes to go in regulation, one eerily reminiscent of a strike Martin Gelinas failed to get credit for some 11 years earlier.
Video review was inconclusive in determining whether the puck completely crossed the Anaheim goal line, denying Calgary the tying marker.
“I thought it was (in the net),” Bennett said. “I didn’t really know during the play. I looked over at the TV screen and to me I thought it was in. I guess there wasn’t enough evidence. You just got to pretend it didn’t happen and just push it aside and just keep battling. We knew one was going to come. We knew we were going to get our chances.”
They got one more chance.
Gaudreau didn’t leave it to video review.
With a plethora of circumstance landing the Flames a 5-on-3 in the late stages of the game, Gaudreau walked off the side wall and ripped a shot over Andersen’s shoulder with 19.5 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
“There was a lot of leaders stepped up on the bench after that goal didn't go in,” Gaudreau said. “You could see some of younger guys, including myself, get a little down there. Some of the older guys who have been in a position like this before made sure we kept our heads up and kept battling through.”
All the way until Backlund ended the game to welcome the Flames back into the series.
“It was an emotional night,” Backlund said. “I mean, it’s a close call there but then we kept going and Johnny, what a player. That’s an amazing goal he scores. Not a lot of guys can do that. Coming into overtime we said we were going to win this game.”