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Flames halt skid with victory over Penguins

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames



PITTSBURGH, PA
-- Mikael Backlund had a goal and an assist to help the Calgary Flames to a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Saturday, ending a seven-game losing streak in the process.

Joe Colborne, Mark Giordano and Lance Bouma scored, and Joni Ortio made 29 saves for the Flames, who win for the first time since beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Feb. 19. The win, in the finale of a four-game road trip, is Calgary’s second in the past 12 games (2-9-1).

"Gutsy effort. It hasn’t been a very easy road trip for us," Bob Hartley summed up Calgary's win. "The boys had great jump and this was a hungry team trying to secure a spot in the playoffs. They scored right on the first shift and we never got rattled. We kept going and the four lines played very well and with the loss of Nakladal we had to go down to five defenceman. Joni Ortio was very good in net for us. Very good win."

The win is also Ortio’s first since Jan. 19, 2015 -- a span of nine starts.

"It’s big for me but it’s big for our team, too," said Ortio. "Lately we’ve been playing well, we just haven’t been rewarded for that and I think every guy in this locker room is deserving of that [win]."

The Flames open a season-high six game homestand on Monday against the San Jose Sharks.

Patrick Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins.

After Crosby put the Penguins up by one early in the second period, Giordano answered 1:29 later to tie the game 2-2. Backlund’s cross-ice backhand pass landed on the stick of Giordano, who snapped a shot over the glove of Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The goal extends Giordano’s career-best to 16. He has at least 40 points for the third consecutive season, too.

"We had talked about playing tight because obviously with the Crosby line, Malkin line, Letang on the blueline always jumping in the play, we had to minimize scoring chances, prevent out-numbered situations -- we did a great job at this," Hartley added. "They got the lead and we got back and we kept fighting.

"I’m very proud of the group and they deserved this win."

Backlund then gave the Flames their first lead of the game.

As Tom Kuhnhackl’s double minor for high-sticking expired, Backlund redirected Dougie Hamilton’s pass into the slot over Fleury to put Calgary up 3-2 with 4:14 remaining in the second.

"Great goal at the end of our four-minute powerplay and that was a huge goal," Hartley said. "Backs was skating well and their line was dominating. What can you say about his effort on penalty killing towards the end of the game? Broke lots of passes and had some great clears. Big game for Backs."

Bouma doubled the lead with 5:57 remaining in the period, taking a pass from Colborne and lifting a shot over a downed Fleury.

Ortio made 17 saves in the third to preserve the win. The 24-year-old was sensational in the final minutes, holding off an aggressive Penguins attack.

You’ve got to give credit to Orts, that was an incredible effort by him," said Colborne. "Playing these guys, you know they are going to get some chances, and some quality chances and he shut the door."

Hornqvist opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the game. Crosby’s shot caromed off the end boards and off both of Ortio’s legs before skirting across the goal line.

The lead lasted 1:28. Colborne tied the game when Sam Bennett’s backhand from the high slot deflected off the skate of Colborne. The goal, his 11th, sets a new career-high for Colborne.

Ortio kept the game tied heading into the second period. Off the rush, Crosby pulled up and fired a shot from 16 feet out that Ortio got a pad on. He stopped Hornqvist with a rebound attempt, too.

"He is so proud and he is so competitive that you push for him," Hartley said of Ortio. "He always gives you a chance to win. He gets in net, he competes hard, he’s tracking the puck well."

The win for Calgary pushed them past the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference but still 14 points back of the Minnesota Wild, which hold the final Wild Card spot.

"The pride that we have in being professionals and the respect we have for one another – that’s huge right now," said Colborne. "We have a tight-knit group here. We all really care about each other and there isn’t a single guy in the room that is not happy with the standings but we have to just go out there and play for each other."

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