CALGARY – It took them 100 days, but the Calgary Flames finally clawed their way back into a playoff position.
Curtis Glencross’ goal at 8:37 of the third period Monday night broke a 1-1 tie and propelled the Flames to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
After taking a feed from Olli Jokinen off the rush, Glencross took a couple strides before firing his 14th goal of the season past the glove of Corey Crawford.
Calgary has points in eight straight (7-0-1) and move ahead of the idle Long Angeles Kings into sole possession of eighth spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s a great accomplishment for us,” said Glencross. “We put ourselves in a hole early in the year and we’ve bounced back. We’ve had some adversity and we’ve shown a lot of courage to come back.”
The Flames were last in a playoff position on Oct. 29, and their ascent back into contention began with a 3-2 win over Dallas on Dec. 23. Entering that game, the Flames were in 14th place in the conference, nine back of a playoff spot and just two points up on the last place Edmonton Oilers.
In the past 20 games, beginning with that road win, Calgary has gone a sizzling 13-3-4.
“It was tough days in here, we lost a few too many games in the fall and we were struggling, but we never stopped believing in ourselves and we always kept working,” said Mikael Backlund, who scored the game’s first goal. “Lately we’ve been playing really good hockey consistently and it feels really good to be back in the playoffs again.”
Rene Bourque into an empty net also scored for Calgary (27-21-7), who have won two in a row against Chicago at the Scotiabank Saddledome after entering this season having lost seven straight against the Blackhawks on home ice.
Patrick Kane scored for Chicago (27-22-4). The defending Stanley Cup champions have lost four of five and sit tenth in the West.
“We’re giving away points,” said Chicago winger Troy Brouwer. “The way we’re sliding right now, we’ve got to find a way to get out of it and get out of it real quick or we’re going to find ourselves in a real big hole.”
The Blackhawks have dropped two of three halfway through a six-game road trip, which continues Wednesday in Edmonton.
“We needed pucks at the net, traffic at the net, and that was not anywhere near close enough to get it done,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “I think we’re better off with anger than frustration, but channelling it properly has got to be part of it. There was an undisciplined penalty at the end that we can’t take.”
After backing up Marty Turco the past two games, Crawford was inserted back in the lineup and responded with an excellent effort. He stopped 20 of 21 shots to keep the game tied 1-1 after two periods.
Chicago’s top-ranked power play went 0-for-4, getting blanked for the second straight game. Calgary was 1-for-4 with the extra man.
“We’re making it too easy on the goalies and too easy on the d-men to clear pucks out of the front of the net,” Brouwer said. “We’re not getting second and third opportunities, which is where you score a lot of the goals in this league.”
Calgary grabbed the lead at 14:33 of the first thanks to a good shift from the fourth line.
After crossing the Chicago blue-line, recent AHL callup Lance Bouma threaded a perfect pass to Backlund, who beat Crawford with a nifty deke to his backhand.
“It was a really nice pass from Boumer (Bouma). I was screaming pretty loud because I had really good speed and the defence was splitting pretty good. It was a perfect pass, right on the tape,” Backlund said. “Everybody’s chipping in, every line’s been going, it’s a great feeling in the locker-room right now.”
Chicago tied the game 1-1 at 5:56 of the second period on a tough shift for the Flames’ top defence pairing.
Robyn Regehr was unable to contain Jonathan Toews along the boards and eventually he ended up with the puck behind the Calgary net. In the slot, Jay Bouwmeester got caught watching as Toews zipped a pass out to the wide open Kane and he fired his 15th past Kiprusoff.
Notes: Calgary lost defenceman Adam Pardy (upper body) to injury in the second period. … The next point for Chicago RW Marian Hossa will be his 800th. He will become the 137th player in NHL history toreach that milestone. … Bourque’s goal was his first at home since Dec. 16. … Calgary is just 2-9 in its last 11 games against the Blackhawks. … Calgary has appeared in a league-high 12 shootouts, three more than anyone else. Their seven wins also lead the league. In shootout goals scored, Tanguay (seven) and Bourque (five) are ranked first and second.