CALGARY — The Calgary Flames seem to be more comfortable when they’re against the ropes.
Joe Colborne capped off a thrilling game, scoring the only goal of the shootout as the Flames overcame a two-goal third period deficit for an improbable 4-3 win over the red-hot St. Louis Blues on Monday.
In the shootout, Colborne shot first and beat Jaroslav Halak on a deke for his third goal on four attempts this season. Reto Berra secured the victory in net by denying TJ Oshie, Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” said Colborne. “It seems like when we have a lead going into the third period, we’re more nervous than we are when we come in and we’re down.”
Flames captain Mark Giordano forced the shootout, dramatically tying the game with five seconds left in the third period.
Patrick Berglund’s holding penalty gave Calgary a power play for the final 1:37 of the third. Flames coach Bob Hartley added more pop to his offence by pulling Berra, making it a six-on-four situation.
The ploy worked as Calgary poured on the pressure. At one point after a slick passing sequence, rookie Sean Monahan — staring at an empty net — had the tying goal roll off his stick.
No matter, Hudler’s long diagonal pass was one-timed in by Giordano, sending the sell-out crowd of 19,289 into a frenzy.
“I was just hoping he saw me because I saw the lane open right up,” Giordano said. “When I saw it coming over and he laid it nice and flat for me. I just obviously tried to get a shot on net and it was a really good feeling to see that one go in for sure.”
Hartley likes his team’s determination when it’s behind.
“We know the trademark of our team. Credit goes to our players. They never quit,” Hartley said. “We don’t want to fall behind but we always feel as a coaching staff that we keep supporting those guys and they always come up with a big goal, a big effort.”
After the game Hartley emphasized the importance of heading in to the holiday season on a high note.
“This morning, I told them. I know it’s one game out of 82 but the last game before Christmas, it’s always special,” said Hartley. “You’re going home, your families will be around and many times they talk to you about your last game. So, for our players, to go back in their families, they’ll have plenty to talk about.”
Among the conversation starters will be defeating the Blues when they score first as they did — St. Louis entered the night 21-1-2 when that occurs, and when they lead after two periods as they did — they entered the night 16-0-2 in that scenario.
The Flames lead the league in one-goal games, the latest being a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday in which a third period comeback came up short.
Hudler and Mike Cammalleri also scored for Calgary (14-17-6) on Monday. The win kicked off a five-game homestand for the Flames and also snapped a three-game winless skid.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Jaden Schwartz and Paajarvi scored for St. Louis (24-7-5) in regulation. The Blues took three out of four points in Alberta and head home 5-1-2 in their last eight.
“It’s uncharacteristic but a learning lesson for us,” said Blues captain David Backes.
“We played a team tonight that played their butts off and was on an uphill trajectory all game. They got better as the game went on and we plateaued and took out foot off the gas a little bit.”
The Blues looked like they had the game well under control when goals 44 seconds apart in the second period from Schwartz and Paajarvi broke open a 1-1 tie and sent St. Louis to the intermission up by two.
“Teams in the west will take it to you if you let your foot off the gas and this team is no different. A little credit to them but we’re going to look inside our room and make sure we’re better next time we come out,” said Backes.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock spoke only briefly and echoed what his captain said.
“We lost composure with the puck. We made some puck errors. We got caught not clearing pucks at the end. We had full control of the hockey game,” said Hitchcock. “We were just winding the game down and made some puck errors and the next thing you know it was in our net.”
Berra had 32 saves, while Halak made 26 stops.