Backlund, Andersson score in 3rd, Flames beat Islanders 3-1
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The Calgary Flames used another strong third period to keep their winning streak going.
Mikael Backlund and Rasmus Andersson scored nearly three minutes apart early in the third and the Flames clamped down on New York’s late push, beating the Islanders 3-1 on Tuesday night for their season-high sixth straight win.
“We didn’t really give them anything in the third period,” Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk said. “We were going in tied 1-1 on the road, and that was a perfect period in my mind.”
Tkachuk also scored and Elias Lindholm had two assists for the Western Conference-leading Flames, who won both matchups between the first-place teams in a seven-day stretch. Mike Smith finished with 26 saves to improve to 5-0-1 in his last six starts, including a 4-2 win over the Islanders at home last Wednesday.
The Flames lead the league in goals in the third period, outscoring opponents 93-49.
“We’re finding ways to win close hockey games, but we’re doing it the right way,” Smith said. “We’ve played real solid defensively ... we’re getting rewarded because of it.”
Josh Bailey scored for New York, and Robin Lehner stopped 24 shots. The Islanders, 1-2-1 in their last four, began the day two points ahead of Washington atop the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals beat Ottawa 7-2 Tuesday night, but the Islanders held onto first place because they have played two fewer games than Washington.
“Their big line made a difference,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of the Flames. “They’re a very good hockey team. There’s a reason they’re leading the Western Conference.”
Backlund put the Flames ahead 2-1 at 3:15 of the third, beating Lehner on the blocker side for his 17th of the season.
Andersson beat Lehner through the five-hole for just his second of the season to give Calgary a two-goal lead at 6:12.
“Our guys came in after 40 (minutes), got refocused in a 1-1 game on the road,” Flames coach Bill Peters said. “We found a way. ... Penalty kill did a good job and Smitty was solid.”
The Islanders had the puck in the offensive zone plenty of times in the third period, but the Flames limited the bulk of New York’s shots on the perimeter. Smith denied Anders Lee’s tip try midway through the period, and stopped Cizikas from between the circles with 2:47 remaining.
New York pulled Lehner with just under two minutes left, but was initially slow to get an extra attacker on the ice and then was whistled for too many men.
Smith had to make an acrobatic sprawling save on Adam Pelech’s rebound attempt of Cal Clutterbuck’s shot with less than 1½ minutes to go.
“The guy walks in, dead angle and then off my pad and back out front,” the 37-year-old goalie said. “At that point you’re just selling out and trying to get something in the way and I managed to get a glove on it.”
Tkachuk got the Flames on the scoreboard first, sliding the puck back between his legs and lifting it into the top left corner on a power play for his 25th at 2:57 of the second. It was his first goal in 15 games.
“It was just kind of an instinctual play,” Tkachuk said. “I thought he was going to poke-check it like most goalies do, swinging the sticks. I was trying to get it around the stick, luckily it went in. ... When I was younger it wouldn’t be too frowned upon to do that move in junior or youth hockey. I did it a lot. I haven’t practiced it or tried to do it too much at the NHL level.”
Bailey beat Smith through the five-hole from the right side on a 2-on-1 with Valtteri Filppula for his 14th to tie it at 7:39.
The Islanders, outshot 6-1 in the period before Bailey’s goal, controlled the play for a large chunk of time. New York had 11 straight shots on goal, including five during one power play, as Calgary went more than eight minutes without an attempt.
The Flames outshot the Islanders 9-5 in the scoreless first period, with neither team mustering many good chances.
NOTES: New York F Andrew Ladd and D Thomas Hickey were activated off long-term IR. Ladd was out since Nov. 13 with a lower-body injury, and Hickey had not played since Dec. 17 with an upper-body injury. Ladd had an assist on Bailey’s goal. ... D Scott Mayfield was a scratch to make room for Hickey. Mayfield had played in 59 straight games. ... Gaudreau had an assist on Backlund’s goal, reaching 50 assists and 80 points for the second straight season.
Flames: At New Jersey on Wednesday night.
Islanders: Host former captain John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
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