CALGARY — Secondary scoring helped the Calgary Flames inch back into their playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.
More of it is needed for the Flames to extend and win it.
Calgary’s top line of Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau have yet to score even-strength in their Western Conference semifinal, due in large part to Anaheim’s suffocating forward unit of Ryan Kesler, Matt Belesky and Jacob Silfverberg.
Gaudreau’s electrifying power-play goal with 19 seconds to go in Game 3 was the buzz Wednesday as it doused fires on several fronts for the Flames.
The Calder Trophy candidate’s wrist shot on a two-man advantage deadlocked the game and opened the door for Mikael Backlund to score the 4-3 overtime winner. Calgary avoided falling behind three games to none in the series.
Gaudreau’s goal also diffused fans’ resentment over a disallowed Sam Bennett equalizer earlier in the third period, which would have been debated for days in Calgary had the Flames lost.
But overlooked was Joe Colborne and Backlund scoring their first goals and fourth-liner Brandon Bollig collecting his second of this post-season.
“It’s up to us to step up and take some of the pressure off our top line,” Colborne said. “You can’t win a Stanley Cup with just one line going.”
The Flames trail two games to one in the best-of-seven conference semifinal. The Kesler line isn’t likely to let up on Monahan’s unit in Friday’s Game 4, as the Ducks will be hungry to steal a win at the Scotiabank Saddledome and close it out Sunday at the Honda Centre.
Calgary’s top trio mustered a combined three shots on net in Game 3.
“Definitely need to try to outwork them a little bit more,” Gaudreau said of the Ducks’ line shadowing his.
“They’re really skilled defensively and do a great job in their own zone in blocking shots. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting pucks to the point and trying to get in front of the net, try to screen and get some dirty goals there.”
Calgary spent more time in the offensive zone in Game 3 than in the first two in Anaheim. The Flames got more shots away, but not necessarily through as Anaheim blocked 18 to Calgary’s nine.
Monahan, 20, and Hudler each scored 31 goals to lead the Flames this season, while 21-year-old Gaudreau piled up 64 points. Gaudreau’s power-play goal is their lone tally against Anaheim.
Flames coach Bob Hartley retains last line change as the home team Friday and can use it to separate his top line from Kesler’s. But Hartley also wants his firepower on the ice.
“They’re using Kesler basically every faceoff in the defensive zone,” the coach explained. “What do I do? Keep my best offensive unit on the bench because I don’t want them to play against Kesler? We’re not going to do this.
“Best players want to be on the ice. Even though we have two very young players on our most productive unit, I’m not going to shy away from this.”
The bigger, stronger and more rested Ducks are favoured to advance from this series, but the Flames are a stubborn lot. Tuesday’s victory was their 13th of the season when trailing after two periods.
“I don’t think we were anywhere where we wanted to be after Game 2 or 1,” forward Mason Raymond said. “We’ve got a whole new sense of life and Calgary Flames hockey. We want to carry that into Game 4.”
Gaudreau knows enough Flames history to understand Calgary is hypersensitive to disallowed goals. Bennett’s was reminder of one that still rankles today.
Current Flames assistant coach Martin Gelinas looked like he’d scored a possible game-winner for Calgary in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay.
The puck deflected off his skate onto the pad of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, and television angles suggested Khabibulin’s pad was behind the goal-line.
The game wasn’t stopped to review the play and the Lightning went on to win in double overtime, as well as Game 7 to claim the Cup. There are still red Flames jerseys out there with “It Was In” emblazoned on the back.
“I hear about it,” Gaudreau said.
“That would have been a big topic today. Thankfully we tied the game and found a way to win it in overtime.”