Mikael Backlund lifts Flames to 2-1 shooutout victory over Penguins

By Darren Haynes

CALGARY – Mikeal Backlund wasn’t happy with himself after his penalty in the third period cost his Calgary Flames the lead, but he made up for it.

Calgary’s seventh skater in a suspenseful shootout, Backlund scored the decisive goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

“I wasn’t expecting to get picked really,” said Backlund said with a chuckle, pointing to his 0-for-7 record in the shootout. “But when I heard my name, I got excited and tried the move I’ve been working on in practice.”

Backlund broke in off the right side and – just like he’s been doing in practice against Jacob Markstrom – he ripped a shot into the top corner over the glove of Tristan Jarry.

“I tried that move in practice and I scored on Marky so I figured if I can score on Marky, I can do it in this game, too,” said Backlund.

Markstrom sealed the victory by stopping Brock McGinn on Pittsburgh’s final shootout attempt, with the Flames’ goaltender pumping his fist as his teammates spilled over the boards to celebrate Calgary’s second victory in extra time.

Johnny Gaudreau and Kris Letang also scored in the shootout for Calgary. Jake Guentzel rang a shot off the crossbar for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins tied it at 12:35 of the third period, quickly converting the first power play of the night for either team.

With Backlund in the penalty box for interference after he hauled down Evan Rodrigues at the side of the Flames net, Pittsburgh needed only seven seconds to draw even.

Sidney Crosby won the faceoff and getting the puck back from Letang, his attempted pass through the Calgary slot was redirected by Guentzel through Markstrom’s pads.

The power-play goal extended Guentzel’s point streak to 10 games. He’s also picked up at least one point in all 10 Penguins road games this season.

“Stupid penalty. My emotions got the best of my there in front of the net. It’s tough to go to the box when you’re up one late in the game and then when they score right away. It’s hard. Then when I got the chance, I was excited to get a chance to redeem myself.”

“We didn’t like our game tonight,” Guentzel said. “I think Tristan played an unbelievable game. Kept us in the game all game. We know we have to be better. Just to get a point, I think it’s a big point for us.”

Calgary swept the season series after winning 4-0 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 28 but the two games were in stark contrast. Last time, the Penguins put up 45 shots. They were held to less than half of that this time.

“We played a little too loose in Pittsburgh, but we got away with one, and today, puck possession was better, zone time was better,” said Milan Lucic, who scored for Calgary in regulation. “That’s a good sign that we’re able to adjust and zone in on what our jobs are to give us success in the checking part of the game.”

Calgary (13-4-5) has points in eight of its last nine (6-1-2) while Pittsburgh (10-7-5) has points in six of its last seven (5-1-1).

Markstrom had 21 saves to improve his record to 9-4-4. Jarry made 31 stops as his record dropped to 10-4-4.

Approaching the halfway point of the second period and with the game scoreless despite Calgary producing a majority of the scoring chances, the Flames finally broke through against Jarry.

Oliver Kylington’s long pass up the side boards was neatly chipped by Lucic past the tight coverage of defenceman Chad Ruhwedel. As he retrieved the puck and stormed into the Penguins end to chants of “Looooch” from the Saddledome crowd, he snapped his sixth goal of the season through Jarry’s pads.

Until that point, the Flames had done everything but score.

Gaudreau and Trevor Lewis hit goalposts. Andrew Mangiapane whiffed on a cross-crease feed from Blake Coleman with an open side to shoot the puck into.

Backlund and Lindholm put dangerous rebound chances past open nets.

“They play a high-pressure game. They put a lot of pucks in deep. You’ve got to be able to handle their pressure and I didn’t think we did very well tonight,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

The Flames open a four-game road trip in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Notes: Calgary forward Andrew Mangiapane played in career game No. 200, as did Pittsburgh forward Dominik Simon… Calgary has only trailed after two periods twice all season (0-1-1)… Flames D Juuso Valimaki has been a healthy scratch in 14 of his last 15 games… Penguins are 21-5-5 in Western Canada dating back to 2007-08.