Backlund scores short-handed goal in 3rd period as Flames beat Panthers 3-1

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CALGARY, Alberta — Mikael Backlund scored a tiebreaking short-handed goal early in the third period, Jacob Markstrom stopped 34 shots, and the Calgary Flames beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Monday night.

Martin Pospisil and Blake Coleman also scored to help Calgary improve to 2-0-2 in their last four games.

Sam Reinhart had a power-play goal for Florida, and Anthony Stolarz had 21 saves. The Panthers finished a five-game trip at 2-3-0.

Tied 1-1 in the third, the Flames’ dangerous penalty kill came through shortly after failing to connect on a power play. Attempting to enter the Flames zone, Reinhart turned the puck over to Noah Hanifin, who sprung Backlund on a breakaway. With Reinhart chasing him, Backlund went to his backhand and lifted a high shot, glove-side over Stolarz at 3:31 for his seventh goal of the season.

“Hanny made a really good read, really good play, and then I saw a chance to go and he made a really nice pass and I took off,” Backlund said. “Tight game, you get to score the 2-1 goal, it always feels really good.”

Reinhart said the turnover was a mistake that can’t happen.

“Our power play’s got to be better. I’ve got to be better coming through the neutral zone,” he said. “It’s unfortunate with the way it happened. It’s a tight one and a lot of times it’s a turnover, it’s a mistake like that and the other team capitalizes.”

Florida got a great chance to tie it with 2:13 left when Backlund was sent off for delay of game after flipping the puck into the crowd. But on the power play and with the goalie pulled, Coleman jumped on a loose puck and took off on a breakaway and was hauled down by Brandon Montour from behind. He was awarded a short-handed goal.

Calgary’s eight short-handed goals on the season ties them for first with St. Louis.

“We’ve got some players who can skate well and if there’s a chance, we talk about we don’t cheat for chances, but if the play is there, we go for it,” said Backlund. “If we can find a way to score some big goals, that’s big for the team.”

It’s been a bright spot for a team that ranks near the bottom of the league on the power play with 11 goals — ahead of only Philadelphia (10), Washington (8) and St. Louis (8). In the last six weeks dating back to Nov. 7, Calgary has more short-handed goals (6) than power-play goals (4).

Calgary finished 0-for-5 on the power play on the night to drop to 1-for-19 in their last eight games.

Markstrom was solid in his return from a seven-game absence due to a fractured finger. He moved to 6-2-1 in his last nine starts and 7-8-2 on the season.

His 11 third period saves included a flurry down the stretch as the Panthers pressed.

“When he’s fresh, he’s really good, and I feel like he’s been that way for almost every game he’s played for us this year,” Flames coach Adam Huska said. “He’s a fighter. I think when a game’s on the line like that, that’s when he plays his best.”

Calgary struck first at 8:45 of the first period as Nazem Kadri’s backhand outlet pass found Pospisil skating through the neutral zone. As he broke down the right side with Kevin Stenlund in close pursuit, Pospisil flung a rising backhand on net that slipped past Stolarz.

Florida tied it with 31 seconds left in the opening period as Matthew Tkachuk deflected Aleksander Barkov’s point shot on net. While Markstrom got his pad on the redirection, the rebound popped out to Reinhart who buried his team-leading 18th goal of the season.

Reinhart has five goals and nine assists in his last 11 games.

Jonathan Huberdeau was held off the scoresheet again, extending his career-worst stretch without a point to nine games. He has four goals and 11 assists in 32 games.

Panthers defenseman Dimitry Kulikov played in his 900th career game.


Panthers: Host St. Louis on Thursday night to open a two-game homestand.

Flames: At Anaheim on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.



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