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GAME CHANGER

Lundqvist's massive save on Backlund shot pivotal moment in tilt

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

His kingdom may be in flux.

But the King is still commanding.  

"Everyone knows he's a great goalie,'' said Mikael Backlund of countryman King Henrik Lundqvist. "And that was a great save.

"That's the second time he's robbed me a in a couple weeks now. Frustrating, definitely.

"Looking back, I put it on the ice, it's in. I score there it's 2-1 us. Instead, in no time at all, it's 2-1 them.

"I caught a glimpse of it before he stopped it. Unbelievable. He never gives up on a shot."

The Rangers rode a truly vintage performance from their Hall-of-Fame bound goaltender to shade a playoff-hunting band of Flames 3-1 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday night.

They've been running smack dab into some quality goaltending performances of late.

Only Tuesday, skyscraper-sized Ben Bishop of the Stars blocked all 38 Calgary pellets in a 2-0 scoreline in Big D.

Over the years, of course, Lundqvist has come to Gotham's rescue on more occasions than Batman.

Smarting from back-to-back losses on the road, the Flames stormed his fortress relentlessly, generating a season-high 51 shots on 87 attempts.

The game's undisputed table-tipper arrived as early as a half-minute into the second period. All square, 1-1. With Lundquist apparently hung completely out to dry on the pass, Backlund - as taught - wasted no time in unleashing his shot.

But the Ranger icon, diving back in desperation - minus his goal stick by then -clawed the puck away from the promised land using the back of his blocker.

Seconds later, the counter-attacking New Yorkers had, crucially, seized the lead, left-winger Pavel Buchnevich prodding the puck from the side of the net, barely, behind Calgary puck-stopper Jon Gillies.

"The big turning point,'' said Flames' boss Glen Gulutzan, "was the big save by Lundquist on Backlund, coming across with his blocker. And then they score right after."

One stays out. Somehow.

One dances in. Somehow.

Success or failure, joy or sorrow, at this time of year is balanced on such a slender tightrope.

"Backs,'' said captain Mark Giordano, "couldn't have shot it any better.

"Once again, we were getting a lot of tips, a lot of traffic, a lot of chances. We had a lot of quality looks. That's two or three (games) in a row where the puck's not going in the net and for whatever reason we're being over-aggressive and giving up too much the other way."

The Blueshirts scored their first goal off an offensive face-off directed at the net straight off the draw and caught the Flames on a bad line change on their third marker.

"I thought we had a good start to our game,'' reasoned Gulutzan. "In the second we pressed so much, we gave up too many odd-man rushes.

"And their goalie, for the second time in three nights, was very good. We just kept pressing and we leaked a little too much. Our guy had to bail us out. Jonny bailed us out.

"In the third we kind of regrouped again but we just couldn't get it past him. We kept pushing. I don't think there was any give in our team, right to the end."

With a three-game road swing opening Monday night against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by visits to Buffalo and Ottawa, the Flames need to put a winning run together.

At the close of play Friday, they found themselves three points out of a playoff spot and 16 games left to make up the gap.

 "We've just got to keep moving forward,'' preached Gulutzan. "We've dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and now we're the one people who can dig ourselves out of it.

"We've got to start helping ourselves."

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