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Inside The Game: Flames vs. Wild

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames


CALGARY, AB -- The kids have been more than alright.

Injecting youth into the Calgary Flames lineup to close out the year, the likes of Sven Baertschi, Maxwell Reinhart and Roman Horak have shined in their late-season auditions.

Sunday, it was Mark Cundari's turn.

Making his National Hockey League debut, Cundari scored his first career goal while veteran Joey MacDonald made 34 saves as the Flames tamed the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at the Excel Energy Center on Sunday.

The win is Calgary's third straight -- the first time the team has accomplished the feat this season -- and four of their last five in playing the role of spoiler for playoff hopefuls.

Deadlocked after 20 minutes, Mikael Backlund put the Flames up for good in the second period.

After Lee Stempniak was denied on his partial breakaway attempt and subsequent rebound, Backlund tapped his eighth of the season behind Backstrom at 8:50 to restore the one-goal lead. With an assist on the play, Baertschi extended his point scoring streak to five.

MacDonald did his best to buy the Flames some time until they added another in the final frame.

Just 3:19 into the third, Mikael Granlund stole the puck below the goal line early in the third period and walked off the goal line to unleash a backhand that MacDonald smothered. He was equally as good off Mikko Koivu, robbing the Wild captain in the slot after taking a feed from Zach Parise near the midway mark of the period.

Mike Cammalleri rewarded MacDonald's saves at 12:40.

After drawing Tom Gilbert's holding penalty, Cammalleri took Cundari's redirected shot and flicked the puck over a surprised Niklas Backstrom for his 13th of the season to extend Calgary's lead to two.

Jiri Hudler iced the game into the back of the empty net with 32 seconds remaining, Calgary's third power play goal of the game.

Though the Wild held a decisive shot advantage in he first period, it was the Flames who scored first courtesy of Cundari. Playing in his first National Hockey League game, Cundari made an immediate impact with just over four minutes remaining in the period.

On the power play with Mikael Granlund sitting two for interference, Cundari took a return pass from TJ Brodie at the right faceoff dot and fired his first shot over the glove of Backstrom to give Calgary the lead at 13:37.

The Wild, fighting to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference, drew even with just 1:16 remaining in the frame.

Taking a pass from Charlie Coyle, Parise came out of the corner and wrapped the puck around the right pad of MacDonald and stuffing it behind the Flames netminder to tie the game 1-1.


Taking a pass from Brodie, Cundari settled on the faceoff dot and ripped a shot over the glove of Backstrom at 13:37 of the first period for his first career NHL goal.


Clinging to a one-goal edge, MacDonald robbed Koivu alone in the slot with 11:50 remaining in the third period.


After drawing a penalty, Cammalleri scored his 13th of the season after picking up Cundari's redirected shot and deposited it behind Backstrom at 12:40, putting the Flames up 3-1.


"It was surreal. I didn't know how to react."

-Mark Cundari


Scoring his first career goal in Minnesota, Cundari joins the likes of Brodie and Sven Baertschi as Flames youngsters who have scored their first career goal at the Xcel Energy Center.


Boasting an expanded roster after calling up seven players on Sunday, the Flames scratched Roman Cervenka, Brian McGrattan, Blair Jones, Akim Aliu, Leland Irving, Anton Babchuk and Carter Bancks against the Wild.

Dennis Wideman (finger), Derek Smith (knee), Alex Tanguay (knee), Curtis Glencross (knee) and Steve Begin (upper body) also missed the game for the Flames due to injury.


The Flames have just three games remaining on the docket -- all on the road -- continuing on in Nashville on Tuesday (6 p.m. MT, SNET-W) before heading to St. Louis on Thursday (6 p.m. MT, SNET-W) and closing out the season against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday (6:30 p.m. MT, TSN).

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