Ducks play spoiler in beating frustrated Flames 3-1

CALGARY — Backstopped by John Gibson's 36 saves, the Anaheim Ducks dealt the Calgary Flames' flickering playoff hopes a major blow on Friday.

Led offensively by a goal and assist from Max Comtois, the Ducks won 3-1 to extend the Flames' winless skid on home ice to five games.

“We know this time of year there's a lot of teams trying to make the push and we're going to be up against good competition,” said Gibson, who is 4-1-2 in his last seven games.

“Whether it's teams in the playoffs, teams outside of the playoffs, or teams pushing to get into a playoff spot, we know it's all going to be competitive.”

Peppered with 13 shots in the third period as Calgary pressed for the tying goal, Gibson was perfect with his best stop coming with less than seven minutes remaining when he snagged a close-in shot off the stick of Tyler Toffoli after the Flames leading goal scorer was set up in the slot by Jakob Pelletier.

Toffoli was held off the scoresheet despite a game-high eight shots.

“He's probably a top-five, top-three goalie in the league,” said Comtois. “He's always coming up with those big saves and keeping us in it. Even when we play really good teams and teams like today fighting for their lives in a playoff spot, they throw everything at him and he just comes up with the saves."

In another flurry earlier in the third, Gibson kicked out his left pad to make successive stops from in-close off Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.

“Incredible leader,” said Ducks coach Dallas Eakins. “He's got a fire in him to compete. This year, obviously being in a rebuild, isn't easy on a guy like that. I think he's managed his mindset extremely well.”

Brett Leason and Derek Grant, into an empty net, also scored for Anaheim (22-35-9), which improves to 5-1-2 in its last eight.

Mikael Backlund scored the lone goal for Calgary (29-24-13), which remains four points back of Winnipeg for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Western Conference. The Jets also hold a game in hand.

“We got to understand that we're fighting for our lives, and everybody in the room needs to find a way to step up a little bit more,” said Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar.

The loss comes after back-to-back emotional road victories on Monday and Tuesday against the Stars and Wild. Calgary hasn't won three games in a row since early December.

Calgary falls to 0-16-3 when trailing after two periods. They're the only NHL team without a comeback victory.

“We had a lot of looks, especially in the third. We're dominating the game in the third, and we just can't get that tying goal or the leading goal so it's frustrating,” said defenceman Rasmus Andersson.

Calgary leads the league in one-goal losses. This was essentially another one with the Ducks' empty-net goal coming with two seconds left.

“When the games on the line, we need players to step up and we need to get those goals and it's been the same kind of story all season long,” said Andersson.

In his fifth straight start, Jacob Markstrom had 15 stops. His record falls to 17-18-8.

Gibson improves to 14-24-7 on the season.

After a scoreless first period, the Flames took a 1-0 lead at 6:43 of the second on a power play when Elias Lindholm's shot banked in off of Backlund in front.

It was the first power-play goal in six games for Calgary, which was 0-for-12 over the previous five games.

The lead was short-lived, however, with the Ducks answering back 64 seconds later when Frank Vatrano's shot changed directions off Comtois' shin pad and fooled Markstrom.

The goal ended Markstrom's shutout streak at 98:35.

"It's been such a tough year for our group that I think we just want to win,” said Comtois. “We don't like the fact that we're at the bottom of the standings. We don't like the fact that it's been like that for the last three, four years. We have a really proud group and a lot of character on this team.”

Leason, who grew up in Calgary, knocked in the go-ahead goal from the side of the net at 11:33 of the second. It's his fifth goal. He had been a healthy scratch for the previous three games.


The Flames had their eight-game (7-0-1) point streak against Anaheim snapped that dated back to 2019. It had been their longest active streak against any one opponent.


Gibson's 13 saves in the first period moved him past Guy Hebert (11,813) and into top spot on the Ducks' all-time list. Gibson has been busy this season, leading the NHL in saves with 1,516.


Ducks: Open an eight-game homestand on Sunday against the Nashville Predators.

Flames: Take on the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2023.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press