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Flames beat Wild in OT to wrap up perfect homestand

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames might want to delay their Olympic break.

Mikael Backlund scored 2:25 into overtime to give the Flames a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. It was their fifth consecutive win during a perfect homestand; they play three road games next week before breaking for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Calgary's next home game is Feb. 27 against the Los Angeles Kings.

It's the first time in almost a year the Flames have put together five straight wins on home ice; their last such streak came from Feb. 23 to March 27, 2013. It's also the first time since Feb. 7-15, 1997, that Calgary has swept a five-game homestand. The hot stretch at home comes after the Flames set a franchise record by losing seven straight in their own building.

"It's awesome," Backlund said. "It's a great feeling. Everybody's happy and guys are buzzing in here, having a great time with each other. It's a lot nicer to win, especially at home with your family. Losing seven games [at home] was tough, you bring a little too much of it home, I know I did, so it's nice to win."

Backlund won it when he batted Sean Monahan's rebound out of midair and behind Darcy Kuemper for his second of the night and 13th of the season. Backlund has had two points in each of the Flames' past four games.

"It was a nice one," Backlund said. "It was a big one too; it's always nice to score in overtime.

"I've got some other overtime goals that rank higher, more playoffs games in juniors in stuff and World Juniors, but [it's] probably the biggest NHL goal. I don't know if I've had any overtime goals before."

The Wild, who play their final two games before the break at Xcel Energy Center, scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the third period to force OT and earn a point to conclude a four-game road trip that ended with a 1-1-2 record.

"It depends how you want to look at it or how you want to write it," coach Mike Yeo said. "I mean, you can also say that our guys, at the end of a long road trip, battled back when you're down 3-1 with less than 10 minutes left. You can point to that and be quite a positive. Obviously when you lose a game in overtime it's frustrating, it's disappointing, but you know what, our guys did battle back and that's a good sign."

With Flames forward Joe Colborne in the penalty box for holding, Calgary product Dany Heatley scored his first in nine games to pull Minnesota within one goal with 9:29 remaining. With 4:05 left, Keith Ballard crashed the net and scored his second of the season to push the game past regulation.

The Wild (29-21-7) hold the first of the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference.

"It's a big point, no question, but starts have cost us the last two games," Heatley said. "We've got to take the points right now, but the start of this trip was a tough trip, a lot of travel, some good teams. We'll take four but we would've liked six, I think."

Calgary's TJ Galiardi opened the scoring at 12:36 of the first period and in doing so, snapped a lengthy personal scoring drought. He gained the Wild zone and took a return pass from Kevin Westgarth before spinning and firing a backhand that made its way past Kuemper for his first in 38 games to put the Flames up 1-0.

"Everyone knows it's been a long time," Galiardi said. "I'm just happy it's over with."

The goal came just over a minute after Flames starter Karri Ramo bailed out Mike Cammalleri, who made his return after missing nine games with a concussion. Cammalleri's drop pass at the Minnesota blue line turned into an odd-man rush the other way for the Wild, with Charlie Coyle stepping around the Flames forward before Ramo sprawled to make the save.

Ramo left the game six minutes later with a lower-body injury and did not return. It's the third time in four games the Flames have had to use both goaltenders but the first time due to injury.

"[Ramo] came at a TV timeout and he told me, 'Bob, I can't keep going'," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "Right away, we went to Reto. I went to see [Ramo] after the first period and he was sore. I don't think that it's major but, obviously, you never know. I'm not a doctor."

It took the Wild a while to test Reto Berra in relief, but Matt Cooke made the most of his shorthanded opportunity in the second. Cooke barreled down left wing and ripped a shot over Berra's shoulder at 14:03 to tie the game 1-1. The goal came on the Wild's 10th shot of the night and the third against Berra.

Dennis Wideman restored Calgary's lead with 1:36 remaining in the period by deflecting Chris Butler's point shot past Kuemper seven seconds after Zach Parise's slashing minor expired.

Backlund's shorthanded goal a minute into the third period gave the Flames a two-goal cushion. Lee Stempniak raced down the left side on a 3-on-1 break and shoveled the puck on net. With Kuemper spun around, Mark Giordano tapped the puck back to Backlund who hit a virtually empty net.

The assist extended Giordano's point-scoring streak to nine games, the longest of any defenseman this season.

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