CALGARY, AB -- A dramatic, come-from-behind overtime victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Anaheim Ducks was a step in the right direction for the Calgary Flames.
But there’s still plenty of hill to climb.
“We’re down 2-1 right now,” forward Joe Colborne said. “We know we’re still fighting an uphill battle. We have to take care of ourselves at home here and then we have a tough task of figuring out how to solve them at home. We can’t even start looking at that until we at least tie it up here next game. We know that they’re going to have a huge effort coming out knowing that was a tough loss for them. They gave us some hope.
“Now it’s going to be a real battle for Game 4.”
The Flames dropped the opening two games of the series in Anaheim but rebounded for a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory in Game 3.
Despite opening the scoring and holding a lead for the first time in the series, the Flames fell behind after 40 minutes. For the third time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and 13th time overall this season, Calgary found a way to battle back when trailing after two periods to find a win.
The Flames, it seems, aren’t going away quietly.
“It’s the nature of our group,” coach Bob Hartley suggested. “I’ve always told my bosses, ‘go and get us some good people’ and our job as coaches is to make them a good team. Good people believe. The easiest thing to say in life is ‘we believe’, but then you have to bring it on the ice. You have to show it. Many times this year it was kind of a lecture to our guys that everyone will say that you believe. In many meetings, if you ask the guys, we talk about full memberships, and if you don’t have a full membership, well, you’re going to get a rebate. You’re not going to play every game. That’s the way it is; that’s the rule we have.”
The victory Tuesday, Anaheim’s first defeat of the postseason, came with plenty of dramatic flair.
Rookie forward Sam Bennett appeared to tie the game with a little over six minutes remaining in regulation, but video review couldn’t provide conclusive evidence as to whether Bennett’s wraparound attempt completely crossed the Ducks’ goal line on the play.
Instead of folding following the non-goal, Calgary battled back again and Johnny Gaudreau, with 19.5 seconds remaining in regulation, snapped a shot over the shoulder of Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen to force overtime.
Backlund ended the game 4:24 into the extra period with a seeing-eye shot through a screen with a delayed penalty coming. He was the forward over the boards for the extra attacker.
The goal, Backlund admitted, gives the Flames new life, but they aren’t about to rest on momentum.
“We’ve got to try and stay even,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing this whole playoffs stretch. Obviously, we feel really good about ourselves after that comeback win. We’ve got to bring the positive with us. We just went through a meeting about what we can do better. When the game starts on Friday, it’s a 0-0 game and a new game.”
A new series, too.
“We’ve got to come out with a big start on Friday,” Backlund said. “Play with the same kind of energy we had last game. It was a step in the right direction again after we played better in the second game. We know we have more in us, so we have to find a way to bring our best game on Friday. They are going to come out hard and they’re going to want to make it 3-1, so we are going to have to play our best and make it 2-2.”
Before Backlund’s heroics came Gaudreau’s.
Coincidental penalties to Matt Stajan and Anaheim's Simon Despres, and a delay of game call to Anaheim's Sami Vatanen for flipping the puck over the glass, put the Flames on a power play. With goaltender Karri Ramo on the bench for an extra attacker, the Flames took a 5-on-3 advantage.
Gaudreau used it to his advantage, walking off the half-wall and picking the top corner on Andersen.
“That’s maybe the biggest goal I’ve ever been a part of in my whole life and for him to step up is pretty special,” Colborne said.
It’s an impressive feat from the rookie but not a surprising one, Hartley suggested.
And it’s not the only thing that makes Gaudreau valuable.
“Special. He’s special. He’s a special young man,” Hartley said. “To play at his size, to play at that skill set, I’ve never seen this. Usually you’re going to see a little player like this, he’s going to be a power play artist and if you lead by a goal or two you put him right in the middle of the bench basically as the grocery stick separating the d-men and the forwards and say ‘you’ve done your job’ and we’re going to try to sit on that one or two goal lead.
“That’s not the case with Johnny. Johnny’s a complete player. After 82 games and nine playoff games, I can say that this young man not only has shown tremendous skills and not only does he want the puck on his stick, he wants to be on the ice. He wants to be in the right situation. He’s playing the right way.”
NOTES: The Flames held an optional skate Wednesday…Lance Bouma, who has missed 11 games -- including all nine playoff games -- is day-to-day, Hartley updated. Hartley also reiterated captain Mark Giordano remains out long-term.