Backlund scores in overtime as Flames burn Rangers 3-2
CALGARY — Jonathan Huberdeau's first season in Calgary has been tough, but he hopes Saturday night was a sign that things are turning around.
Huberdeau had two primary assists including setting up Mikael Backlund's overtime winner as the Flames beat the New York Rangers 3-2, snapping the visitor's seven-game winning streak.
“I want to play well, and tonight, that's how I gotta play the rest of the year,” Huberdeau said. “Sometimes you don't think you have it in you and tonight I showed that I still have it and I can make some plays and play well.”
After finishing tied for second in NHL scoring last season with 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists), Huberdeau was traded to Calgary in the summer in a blockbuster deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers.
Through 53 games with his new team, Huberdeau has just 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists).
“I just got to move my feet, that's when good things happen, and make some plays and shoot a little bit more,” said Huberdeau.
The game-winner at 1:28 came when Backlund deflected Huberdeau's shot past Jaroslav Halak while Adam Fox was serving a high-sticking penalty.
“You know my shot, there's no way that was going in,” said Huberdeau with a chuckle. “I saw Backs was wide open. He works on that every morning skate, so the work paid off this time. That's a huge win for us.”
“Great shot by him seeing that we had some room in front there,” said Backlund. “He had a good night for us and he played really well, created a lot of chances and looks in the o-zone.”
Andrew Mangiapane and Nazem Kadri also scored for Calgary (26-19-11). The Flames pulled even in points with Minnesota for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference, but the Wild have a game in hand.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexis Lafreniere replied for the Rangers (33-14-9), who have points in their last 10 games (8-0-2). New York is two points back of New Jersey for second in the Metropolitan Division.
"Going down early like we did, first two shifts of the game 2-0, in order to get a point we had to claw back,” said Rangers centre Vincent Trocheck, who had two assists. “I thought we played a good game the rest of the way. Just first two minutes really killed us."
The Rangers had scored 36 goals during their winning streak — which included scoring at least four goals in seven straight games for the first time since February 1991.
But against a struggling Flames team with just one in their previous five, they could only solve Jacob Markstrom twice on 21 shots.
“It's two points, good team effort,” said Markstrom, who won for just the second time since Jan. 6. “We're a team and we stick together and today showed a great team effort from puck drop til OT.”
Up 2-1 after 40 minutes, Calgary had numerous chances to regain a two-goal lead in the third, but Halak was excellent in finishing with 29 saves.
"We hung him out to dry early. Some of the saves he made were unbelievable,” said Rangers defenceman Ryan Lindgren.
The Flames know that the type of effort they got Saturday needs to become the norm if they're going to qualify for the post-season.
“Come out every game full of energy and just leave it on the ice,” said Backlund. “It's a playoff game every game for us. We can't afford to lose too many more so we got to go on a streak here.”
Down 2-0 less than a minute into the game, the score remained that way until New York cut the deficit in half at 16:53 of the second when Tarasenko capped off a pretty three-way passing play with Artemi Panarin and Trocheck.
Panarin's helper extended his point streak to seven games (6-9-15).
The Rangers tied it 2-2 on Lafreniere's power-play goal at 12:48 of the third.
"It's nice to win games when you're coming back, but you should play better at the start,” said Tarasenko. "Everybody knows that we can play better. I don't think anybody's satisfied with the result today."
Eight seconds after Mangiapane buried a breakaway 38 seconds into the game, Kadri finished off a tick-tack-toe passing play with Huberdeau and Jakob Pelletier that had the Saddledome crowd buzzing.
Flames were without No. 1 centre Elias Lindholm, away from the team for the birth of his first child. His spot between Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli was taken by Adam Ruzicka, who has no points in his last 15 games and has gone 26 games without a goal.
Calgary improves to 10-2-2 on Saturday games. That includes five straight wins at home on Saturdays.
Chris Kreider had his seven-game (5-4-9) point streak snapped while Mika Zibanejad (8-3-11) had his six-game points spree halted. Halak also had his seven-game winning streak snapped. He last loss was on Dec. 3, 2022.
Rangers: Return home to play host to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
Flames: Wrap up a three-game homestand with a matinee on Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press