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Backlund overtime hero as Flames edge Red Wings 3-2; Calgary wins sixth straight

Backlund overtime hero as Flames edge Wings

CALGARY — Mikael Backlund continues to get it done all over the ice for Calgary.

Relied upon for his defensive play, Backlund’s 20th goal of the season came 3:56 into overtime on Friday as the Flames bounced back from giving up a goal with 1.8 seconds left in the third period to win 3-2 over the Detroit Red Wings.

Streaking down the wing, Backlund blasted a slapshot past Petr Mrazek to give the Flames their sixth win in a row.

“A lot of belief, a lot of confidence and swagger with this group right now. We’re playing some good hockey,” said Backlund, who is tied with Sean Monahan for the team lead in goals.

Backlund’s teammates think it’s about time the 27-year-old Swede starts getting some consideration for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

“He’s known as Mikael Selke around here right now,” said rookie Matthew Tkachuk, who has played on a line with Backlund almost all season. “For all the guys who love the Eastern Conference players, they should pay more attention to Backs.”

Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan certainly knows Backlund’s value.

“I’ve utilized him as a go-to guy almost all year,” said the Flames coach. “He plays against the top lines, that line (with Michael Frolik on right wing), night after night, hard assignments, a lot of D-zone faceoffs (and) starts.”

Co-starring in the victory was Flames goaltender Brian Elliott, who recorded 35 saves including five stops in extra time.

Elliott likes the resilience his team is showing. In the last five games, Calgary has overcome giving up the first goal. On Friday, the Flames also had to shake off Tomas Tatar’s goal in the dying seconds that forced overtime.

“Whenever there’s a hurdle, we’re not getting distracted by it or letting it get in our way,” said Elliott. “You move onto the next shift and play your best for that shift. The guys have really bought into that. “

After a forgettable start to the season in which he lost his starting job for a while to Chad Johnson, the veteran has been much better lately, giving the Flames the calibre of goaltending they were expecting when they acquired him from the St. Louis Blues last June.

Elliott has gone 9-1-1 in his last 11 starts with a .925 save percentage. He was at his best in the second when the Red Wings outshot Calgary 14-2 but couldn’t tie it.

Kris Versteeg and Tkachuk also scored for Calgary (35-26-4). The Flames are six points up on Los Angeles and seven points ahead of St. Louis for the first wild card spot in the West.

Darren Helm had the other goal for Detroit (25-26-11). The Red Wings are 10 points out of a playoff spot in the East.

“We just want to keep playing and proving that we can be playoff team and a contending team,” said Helm. “Obviously we’re a little bit further out of the picture than we wanted to be but we still have a lot of pride in this dressing room and we want to finish off on a good note.”

Tatar’s buzzer beater came seconds after Elliott jabbed out a pad to rob Henrik Zetterberg from the slot.

“We played well, we battled,” said Tatar, who beat Elliott over the shoulder.

Calgary took a 2-1 lead at 13:07 of the first on a giveaway by Niklas Kronwall in front of his own net. He coughed up the puck to Tkachuk, who promptly deked Mrazek and slid in his 12th goal.

Mrazek had 28 stops and fell to 15-17-6.

Elliott’s record on the season improves to 17-13-3.

Notes: Sean Monahan had his 100th assist and 200th career point… Calgary’s scratches included Curtis Lazar, acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline, and veteran defenceman Dennis Wideman, who sat for the sixth game in a row… The Flames have come back to win after giving up the first goal a league-high 17 times… Calgary also improves to a league-best 25-0-1 when leading after two periods.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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