CALGARY, AB -- Every game for the Calgary Flames is do-or-die down the stretch drive and they were able to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture with a 4-3 victory over the slumping San Jose Sharks.
Mikael Backlund was inserted into the lineup after Curtis Glencross suffered an undisclosed injury on Wednesday and he immediately made an impact. Playing on the fourth line with Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers, Backlund gave the team a boost of energy with his speed and skill, picking up two helpers.
The Flames got off to a quick start thanks to a great forecheck on an early play. Calgary controlled the play throughout Ken Huskins holding minor and as soon as he stepped onto the ice, Iginla found the back of the net thanks to some shoddy defensive coverage. Matt Stajan made a nice backhand pass through the crease to an uncovered Iginla and he tapped in his 32nd of the season.
"I was really excited for the game, to get back in the lineup," grinned Backlund. "I was full of nerves in the first - I haven't played in two weeks so I felt a little rusty and a little nervous - then I was more into the game, had a pretty good shift and got two goals for our line so in the third I felt really good ... it's good to get the win."
Backlund's teammates were raving about him after the win.
"He stepped in and played well in a huge game. Guys get injured this time of year and people have to step in," Nystrom said. "He stepped in and did a great job. He's so easy to play with. He's got great speed and great hands. He played really well tonight."
Daymond Langkow made it 2-0 at after a great read by Niklas Hagman. The shifty forward stripped Devin Setoguchi of the puck at the hash marks and slid the puck through a few legs to a waiting Langkow. The veteran wired a one timer over the glove of Evgeni Nabokov, notching his 12th of the campaign.
Calgary native Dany Heatley got the Sharks on the board at 2:41 of the second period with a blazing one timer that beat Kiprusoff cleanly glove side.
Nigel Dawes gave the Flames another two-goal lead at 9:04 of the middle stanza when he was able to wrap the puck around Nabokov's leg after a hard Backlund shot. The rookie made the great heads up play to shoot the puck when he saw Dawes steaming towards the net, earning himself his fourth point of the season.
"It always feels good to get some points on the sheet," said Backlund. "It's good for both me and Nigel to get some points. I was happy to see that go in."
Backlund continued his stellar play when he was able to weave his way through the Sharks defensive, put a hard backhand on net and draw a horde of white jerseys to him. This left Nystrom all alone on the side of the net and he had an easy tap-in off the Backlund rebound.
San Jose turned up the pressure in the third period with Manny Malhotra scoring the Sharks second tally of the night after a defensive lapse by the Flames. Then, with 1:51 left in regulation, Dan Boyle made it a one-goal game. That was all that they could get past the Flames though, giving Calgary their second straight victory.
"It got a little tight at the end but still I thought we played a real good game," Backlund stated.
The stretch drive continues for the Flames as they head to the State of Hockey to take on the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Game time is 1:00 p.m. MST on Sportsnet West & The FAN 960.
|WHY THE FLAMES WON |
|The Calgary Flames played a gritty, physical game that every single player was involved in. All four lines contributed in all three zones and every player tried to be as opportunistic as they could be thanks to some very sloppy San Jose defense. Backlund was able to hop back into the lineup almost seamlessly, showcasing the Flames depth as they drill through the stretch drive. |
|GAME NOTES |
|Backlund was inserted into the lineup after Glencross went down with an undisclosed injury on Wednesday night. Calgary also scratched F Christopher Higgins, F Brian McGrattan and D Adam Pardy. San Jose opted to sit F Jed Ortmeyer ... the Flames honoured March's Molson Cup winners before the game with Mark Giordano and Iginla earning the runners up honours while Jay Bouwmeester was the month's winner. |
|TONIGHT'S DIGITS |
|32 - Assists for Stajan this season. |
2 - Points for Backlund in the 2nd period.
9 - Goals for Nystrom this season.
75 - Mayers faceoff wins percentage.
25:26 - Bouwmeester's ice time, leading all players.
|"It's good to get three assists." - Backlund, joking about handing over the puck on the Sharks second goal. |
"That was a solid game. We need those points and we still have a lot of ground to cover but that's a huge step against a good team." - Nystrom on the game.
"We've got to win games at home. This is our building and we need to make it a tough place to play." - Nystrom on the importance of home wins.
|HARDEST WORKING FLAMES |
| || || || |
|Mikael Backlund |
2 points after not playing for 2 weeks, 4 shots in 7:57 ice time.
| ||Eric Nystrom |
Scored his 9th of the year, 3 hits, 1 blocked shot in 11:04 ice time.
| ||Mark Giordano |
A dominant force on the blueline, +4 rating in 19:51 ice time.