CALGARY – Mikael Backlund believes he’s finally living up to Calgary’s expectations.
The 24-year-old scored twice, including the winner 2:25 into overtime, as the Flames edged the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Saturday.
Backlund aggressively took the puck to the net and sent a pass to Sean Monahan, who’s shot was stopped by Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper. The puck, however, bounced high and Backlund batted it in from out of mid-air.
“There’s been a lot of doubt in this city about me and it’s nice to finally be able to get those goals that people wanted me to get for a lot of years,” said Backlund, the Flames first round pick, 24th overall, in 2007. “Obviously I’m excited about it, I feel good about it. I’m happy I can help the team win games and chip in.”
Backlund has four consecutive multi-point games with five goals and three assists over that span. He’s already set career highs for goals (13) and points (27).
“He gave us a big short-handed goal and than gave us the game-winner. Backs is finding pucks, the pucks are finding pucks and that’s a good combination,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “When you work hard, you usually get rewarded and that’s what he’s getting right now.”
The win mark’s Calgary’s fifth straight victory and also completes a perfect 5-0-0 homestand. The last time the Flames swept a homestand of that length was in 1997, during Jarome Iginla’s rookie season.
“It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling, everybody’s happy,” Backlund said. “The guys are buzzing in here and having a good time with each other. It’s so nice to just win, especially at home when you’ve got your family.”
The sudden home ice success comes right on the heels of a franchise-record seven-game losing streak.
T.J. Galiardi, with his first goal in 38 games, and Dennis Wideman also scored for Calgary (21-27-7), which hadn’t won five games in a row since March 2012.
Mark Giordano had two assists to extend his career-high point streak to nine games, which includes four goals and six assists.
Matt Cooke, Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard scored for Minnesota (29-21-7).
Trailing 3-1 halfway through the third period, the Wild drew to within one on Heatley’s power-play goal at 10:31. Ballard then silenced the Scotiabank Saddledome sell-out crowd of 19,289 with the tying goal at 15:55.
“In the third period the last two nights, we’re tight on teams, we’re skating better, we’re playing five guys on the forecheck. We’re a good team when we do that,” Heatley said. “The first two periods of the last two games, it’s kind of ‘wait and see’ and like that we’re not going to have success.”
It was back on Oct. 4 in the Flames’ second game of the season in Columbus when Galiardi, acquired in an off-season trade with San Jose, scored his first goal in a Calgary uniform. It took nearly four months for the Calgary native to score again.
Galiardi’s goal came on a spin-around backhand at 12:36 of the first period to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. Immediately, the 25-year-old looked skywards in a show of both relief and shock that he finally scored.
That lead would hold up until 14:03 of the second period when Cooke tied it for the Wild while shorthanded. Cooke burst down the left wing and from just inside the top of the face-off circle and blasted a slapshot over the shoulder of Berra.
Berra did not start the game for the Flames. He entered with 2:28 left in the first period when Karri Ramo left with a lower-body injury.
The Flames regained the lead with 1:36 left in the second on a nifty deflection from Wideman.
“We have to make sure that we’re ready to start the game better and obviously play more of a 60-minute game,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “But lets give them credit, they’ve won five in a row now. We knew they were playing well. They’ve been rolling. They’ve been feeling good about their game and we were expecting them to play a good game and they did.”
Calgary surged in front 3-1 one minute into the third period when Backlund finished off a three-on-one for the Flames. The short-handed goal was the third of the season for Backlund, moving him into a tie for second in the NHL behind Boston’s Brad Marchand.
“Defensively we were okay but offensively, we were very much on the perimeter and not gritty enough, not dirty enough,” Yeo said. “It took us to get down 3-1 to start to develop that mentality. Obviously it produced some results.”
Berra had 14 saves to improve to 7-14-2. He has yet to win in regulation, with four shootout victories. Saturday’s game was his third overtime win.
Kuemper made his 10th straight start in net for the Wild. He had 28 saves to fall to 6-4-1.
Notes: No update was available on Ramo… The Flames final three games before the Olympic break will be on the road beginning in Montreal on Tuesday… Minnesota plays twice at home before its break begins… The Flames have eight short-handed goals, which is second in the NHL behind Carolina (9)… Flames D Kris Russell (upper body) did not play. Taking his spot was Chris Breen, who played for the first time since being recalled from Abbotsford (AHL) on Jan. 26.