ST. PAUL, Minn. – This wasn’t just any Calgary victory. Not with the way the Flames have played of late.
When Rene Bourque’s shootout attempt slid between Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom’s legs to give Calgary a 3-2 victory Friday night, there was a sense of satisfaction from the Flames.
Two nights after giving up four third-period goals in a 7-2 home loss to Vancouver, Calgary rebounded. The Flames gave effort, rallied from behind and controlled most of the second half of the game.
“We responded well and we responded the right way,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said. “That’s what we needed to do.”
After all, Calgary arrived in Minnesota having lost 12 of its past 16 games. The Flames players acknowledged that one win doesn’t mean things have turned around—Calgary, after all, hasn’t won consecutive games since October—but it is a start.
“We’ve been snakebit, we’ve been playing better than probably our record shows,” said Alex Tanguay, who scored both in regulation and in the shootout. “For us, it’s trying to find ways to get into the win column. … We’re still three, four wins away from being in the playoffs. With the bad luck we’ve had, it’s somewhat comforting knowing that if we take care of our games now, we can still manage to get back in that race and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Backup goalie Henrik Karlsson (2-1-1) played a big role in this Flames’ victory. Playing for only the fourth time this season, Karlsson stopped 20 shots in regulation and overtime, including one with his head. In the shootout, Karlsson stopped Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, giving Bourque the opportunity to secure the victory.
“He made some big saves, some key saves at certain times,” Sutter said.
Karlsson was more effective than Backstrom in the shootout. Backstrom returned to action after sitting out consecutive games for the first time this season. While Backstrom (8-7-3) made 30 saves, he has now lost 10 of his last 11 shootouts.
Minnesota has lost four in a row—its longest losing streak of the season—and six of seven games.
“Without question I believe there is a mental issue going on as far as creating and frustration,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “You can see it on some guys and it’s not a good emotion. It’s very draining.”
Havlat tied it with 7:21 left in the third period. Catching the puck along the left boards, Havlat drove to the net and across the crease before backhanding the puck past Karlsson. Havlat also assisted on Bouchard’s goal and has 16 points in the past 11 games.
Tanguay gave the Flames a 2-1 lead at 4:39 of the third period. With the puck behind the net, Matt Stajan found Tanguay crashing toward the net. Tanguay collected the puck and shot it past Backstrom and extended his goals streak to five consecutive games.
Bouchard opened the scoring for the Wild in the second period when he grabbed the rebound of his initial shot and shot the puck over Karlsson.
Bouchard was playing only his second game back after missing more than a season because of a concussion sustained in the 2009-10 opener. Bouchard, who missed 104 games, hadn’t scored since March 10, 2009.
Calgary tied it at one in the final minute of the second period. Niklas Hagman found Mark Giordano in front of the net during a stretch of 4-on-4 play. Giordano’s initial backhander was stopped by Backstrom, but Giordano sneaked the rebound just inside the post for his third goal of the season.
While the game wasn’t perfect, the Flames realize how important picking up an extra point was against Minnesota.
“It’s not where we want to be in the standings, but it is what it is,” Sutter said. “We just have to deal with it and handle it and make sure we take one game at a time and focus in on each game as it comes.
“We just have to battle ourselves out of this. There’s no easy way out and there’s no easy road for it.”
NOTES: Minnesota winger Chuck Kobasew is likely to return to the ice for the first time in a month when the Wild play at Dallas on Saturday night. Kobasew has missed 14 games because of a groin injury and a family medical situation. … An early evening snow storm left the Xcel Energy Center only about half-filled, one of the smallest crowds in Wild history in terms of actual people in the building.