CALGARY, AB -- After everything the Calgary Flames have done this season, it seems they still have a little more magic left.
Down 2-0 to the powerful Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the often over-used term "must win" was never more meaningful than going into Tuesday night. A 3-0 series deficit would surely seem like an inevitable conclusion to an unbelievable season.
Instead, the Flames overcame as much adversity as you could throw at them and found a way to come out on top. We have a new series now and heading into Game 4 at Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary has new-found confidence and momentum which they will try to
Joe Colborne may have played his best game of his young NHL career.
A huge shorthanded marker for the native Calgarian -- his first ever playoff goal -- is what he will be remembered for but Colborne was all over the ice and in the faces of Ducks' players all night long.
The breakaway goal he scored was his signature move. The backhand-forehand maneuver is something we've seen before in shootouts over the past two seasons as one of Bob Hartley's go-to shooters.
"I wasn't actually going to do it," Colborne admitted when asked about it. "I thought I had five-hole going but then he kind of changed his stance a little bit and it was a last-minute change.
"He’s been playing very well. I was just lucky to get it in."
"Lucky" is not the way it should be described but there's no question is came at a pivotal time of the game. With the Ducks leading 2-1 and threatening on the power play, Colborne's breakaway came from a rare blueline gaffe courtesy of Hampus Lindholm.
Colborne has raised his game a considerable degree in the postseason and is turning into the player Calgary hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a fourth round draft pick.
Matt Stajan obviously saw it the same way, awarding Colborne with the coveted fire helmet after the game.
Say what you want about the controversial no-goal call when all indications were that Sam Bennett tallied his fourth of the playoffs and tied the game with six minutes remaining in the third.
The fact is the call was made and the Flames had no choice but to move on and focus on getting the equalizer -- as demoralizing as it was.
"There's nothing you can do. You have to keep going," Hartley said in his post-game address. "You can agree, you can disagree, but the bottom line is the call is made and you have to keep playing. We were still down by a goal and we had a choice to pack it in and be down 3-0 or keep fighting and trying to get back in the series. And that's the option that we chose."
It worked out pretty well for Hartley and company.
It seemed as though the hockey gods were on the Flames side after that. A delay-of-game penalty call on Anaheim with just 1:32 left set up an opportunity for the Flames to draw even.
Then Johnny Gaudreau did his thing.
"He's a big-time player. He wants the puck in those key moments," Hartley said of Gaudreau's highlight-reel tying marker. "I felt that the more that the game was progressing, not only Johnny but Mony and Huds also, they were coming to form."
Calgary showed unbelievable composure after Bennett's goal was disallowed and fought hard to tie the game in the dying minutes.
"We thought we had one with Benny scoring there -- whether it went in or not, I'm not sure, but the guys got excited on the bench and then they called it no goal," said Gaudreau. "The guys on the bench said, 'Relax, we've been in this position before.' Thankfully, the guy whacked the puck out of the arena and we got a 5-on-3 and managed to find the net.”
How big was that win? The difference between a 2-1 series deficit and a 3-0 series deficit cannot be overstated.
It was obvious Anaheim dominated Game 1 and parts of Game 2. Game 3 was a little more even but the Flames definitely help the edge in the third period outshooting the Ducks 11-3.
Calgary's Game 3 victory has turned the series around. It gives the Flames an opportunity on Friday to force a best-of-three and perhaps
Mikael Backlund's overtime goal instantly gave the Flames and their fans hope.
"We pulled the goalie there for a penalty and I just tried to be patient with the puck, not rush anything. We were trying to get something to open and nothing really opened so I figured I would take a step in the middle and punched it and I think it hit their d-man and went in."
"3-0, 2-1, it’s a big difference. This was a huge win."
There are not words left to explain the Flames antics this season.
Just when you think they won't -- or can't -- do it again, they do. That's exactly why happened again Tuesday when they turned a feeling of impeding doom into one of the biggest and most dramatic wins of the season all in about 20 minutes.
"There's no words anymore to talk about this group," Hartley said. "They never quit. We keep believing. Even after the disallowed goal, players kept believing, we kept our composure, we were on the job and we got the tying goal and then great execution on that winning goal.
"Once again, a great show of character, great show of grit."
Would you expect anything else? This team continues to show time-and-time again that they belong in the final eight.
"That's pretty much been our story all year — come from behind and score late and get the job done late," said Brandon Bollig, who got the ball rolling with the icebreaker in the first period. "It's awesome. I think that was close to a do-or-die game for us as it gets. We obviously needed that one. Johnny has been great for us all year. I think that was obviously probably the biggest goal of his career. It's a timely goal. And then Backs getting his first of the playoffs in overtime was huge.”
It was over 9 years since the Flames last scored an overtime goal in the playoffs prior to Backlund's goal Tuesday.
It was fitting that Backlund netted the winner as he has been one of the most consistent players in the series and the playoffs for Calgary.
"It was an amazing feeling. It’s hard to describe," Backlund said moments after the game-winning goal."I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it’s just an unbelievable feeling."
The marker wasn't of the highlight-reel variety but proves that just getting pucks on net -- a challenge against the Ducks -- is important.
"I was just trying to find the open ice," Backlund recalled. "We were playing on the left side and I saw it was opening up on the right side and I was yelling for the puck. We got some pressure but didn't have an opportunity to shoot. They were doing a great job blocking shots, especially their d-men, so we passed it around for a little bit and I figured I had to take a step and just punch it."