CALGARY – More surprising than the 7-2 final score Wednesday night was the team that had the seven.
Mikael Backlund scored twice and added an assist as the rebuilding Calgary Flames jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead and cruised to a 7-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, who entered the night second overall in the NHL.
“A nice boost for the team,” said Backlund, up to 16 goals on the season. “There’s been a lot of games lately where we score one or two goals so it’s nice to have seven goals against one of the best teams in the league.”
Up 2-0, Backlund set up Mike Cammalleri in the slot for a power-play goal at 11:28. The quick shot making it three goals on five shots resulted in coach Bruce Boudreau pulling Jonas Hiller and replacing him with Frederik Andersen.
The change did not alter the game’s momentum, however. Two minutes later, Backlund scored his 15th goal of the season on a wrist shot that slipped past the rookie goaltender.
Backlund added his second of the night 1:31 into the second period. Making it 5-0, it was the Flames’ second short-handed goal of the night and league-leading 11th of the season. Backlund has four of them, tying him for top spot in the NHL with Boston’s Brad Marchand and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson.
“I think every guy in the room should be completely embarrassed at how they played tonight—every single person,” said Ducks winger Andrew Cogliano, who scored his 20th goal. “To start a road trip, one of our biggest road trips and having a division rival chasing you down and have a ton on the line, it’s ridiculous how we played.”
While the Ducks were furious with their own effort, the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd announced at 19,829, were ecstatic with the performance from the home side. They gave the Flames a thunderous standing ovation after the first and second periods and once again when the game ended.
“We’ve come a long way this season as a team,” said Backlund, who has been one of the Flames most improved players. “It’s nice to play so well in front of fans and get them into the game. It’s nice to hear them cheering for us and giving us an ovation, it pumps us up pretty good and it’s a great feeling.”
Mark Giordano, TJ Galiardi, Ladislav Smid and Corban Knight with his first NHL goal also scored for Calgary (26-33-7). The Flames scored more than five goals in a game for the first time this season.
Nick Bonino had the other goal for Anaheim (43-16-7). Winless in their last four (0-2-2), the Ducks continue a three-game road trip Friday night in Colorado.
Anaheim continues to lead the Pacific Division but its lead over San Jose is just two points now and the Ducks squandered the game in hand that they held.
“I don’t really know what to say. It’s trying to understand how that can happen in a race like we are in, in a game that is so important against a team that is beneath us in the standings,” said Boudreau. “Now going on the road to Colorado and LA. I really have nothing right now. I don’t know…other than I saw what you guys saw out there. It’s easy to say just pick it up and do that, but we better do some soul searching.”
Up 6-2 late in the third, the crowd got one last treat when Knight, from nearby High River, scored his first NHL goal with 1:57 remaining.
“The leadership in this room is unbelievable,” said Knight, playing his fifth game. “Being a young guy and seeing this, it’s pretty inspirational to see how these guys pull this team together. To be a part of it the last couple games has been awesome.”
Knight is one of seven rookies in the Flames lineup as the rebuilding club has also had to persevere a run of injuries that has sidelined veterans like Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman and David Jones.
“Here is a great team. A big, physical team. I thought that we just matched their intensity right from the start. We caught a couple of breaks that we deserved because we created them. Two short-handed goals, a power-play goal, it was pretty fun to watch our guys go,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley.
The Flames have won eight of their last 10 at the Scotiabank Saddledome after a franchise-record seven-game losing streak on home ice.
“We talk a lot about the work ethic. Even when we were losing, we’ve been doing some good things. It just takes a little thing sometimes to flip the switch and get on a winning streak,” said Smid.
Bad luck for Anaheim on the opening goal that came on a deflection was followed by some bad play. After Backlund was robbed on a two-on-one short-handed breakaway, the same penalty kill produced a three-on-one shortly after with Galiardi finishing off a neat set-up from Paul Byron at 7:10.
“It was horrible D-zone coverage,” said Ducks defenceman Bryan Allen. “We didn’t give much support to our goalies. Most of the goals were tap-ins or grade ‘A’ scoring chances that they capitalized on. It wasn’t good enough.”
Making his fifth start in a row, Ortio had 20 saves to improve to 3-3-0.
In relief, Andersen finished with 16 saves. Hiller was tagged with the loss to fall to 26-10-6.
Notes: Anaheim C Ryan Getzlaf was a game-low minus-4. It’s also the first time in his career he’s been minus-4… Calgary LW Curtis Glencross (ankle) returned after missing 29 games. He played on a line with Galiardi and Brian McGrattan.. Anaheim D Ben Lovejoy (ill) did not play. Also scratched for the Ducks was LW Matt Beleskey…. It was only the third time this season the Flames have scored five goals in a game… The Ducks power play continues to slump. After going 0-for-2, Anaheim is 2-for-35 in its last 11 games… Calgary scored four goals in the first period for the first time since Feb. 13, 2013.