By Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press on December 18, 2023.
CALGARY – Mikael Backlund’s third period short-handed goal was the game-winner and Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves as the Calgary Flames edged the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Monday night.
Rookie Martin Pospisil and Blake Coleman also scored for Calgary (13-14-5). The Flames have recorded points in their last four (2-0-2) outings.
Sam Reinhart scored a power-play goal for Florida (18-11-2). The Panthers wrapped up their five-game road trip with a 2-3-0 record.
Markstrom was excellent in his return from a seven-game absence due to a fractured finger. He’s 6-2-1 in his last nine starts and improves to 7-8-2 on the season.
With Sergei Bobrovsky getting the night off, Anthony Stolarz started for the Panthers and made 21 stops. He’s 4-3-1.
Tied 1-1 in the third, it was shortly after failing to connect on a power play that the Flames dangerous penalty kill struck.
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.
Florida got a great chance to tie it with 2:13 left in the third period 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.
It’s been a bright spot for the team compared to the struggling power play, which ranks near the bottom of the league with only 11 goals ““ only Philadelphia (10), Washington (8) and St. Louis (8) have scored fewer.
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. Florida was 1-for-5 with the extra man.
Calgary struck first at 8:45 of the first period.
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 first.
On a power play, 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 been rolling of late with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his last 11 games.
Jonathan Huberdeau was held off the scoresheet again, extending his career-worst pointless drought to nine games. The Flames highest-paid player has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 32 games in the first year of an eight-year, US$84 million deal.
The blue lines of both teams got a boost with the return of key players. The Flames welcomed back Chris Tanev (upper body) after missing three games. Florida got Aaron Ekblad (lower body) back after he missed Saturday’s win in Edmonton.
Dimitry Kulikov played in his 900th career game. A first-round pick by Florida in 2009, the 33-year-old Russian defenceman is on his second tour of duty with the Panthers. After playing his first 460 games with Florida, he had seven other NHL stops before returning as a free agent this season.
Panthers: Return home to host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
Flames: Open a two-game road trip in California on Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2023.