DENVER — Minutes after his team had fallen in overtime, Mikael Backlund stood in front of the media in the Calgary Flames locker-room and acknowledged his mistakes.
The Flames centre had a rough end to Wednesday’s night devastating 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche , and he didn’t hide from it.
Late in the third period, with the Flames desperately holding on to a 2-1 lead, Backlund took a tripping penalty. The Avalanche tied the game 31 seconds later.
Early in overtime, Backlund had the puck on his stick and needed only to flick it into the top half of the Avs net to end the game and send the series back to Calgary tied 2-2. He couldn’t quite get it over the pad of a sprawling Philipp Grubauer, though.
Then, he was on the ice when Mikko Rantanen scored his second goal of the game to give the Avs a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“It’s hard. It’s tough,” Backlund said. “I took a bad penalty and then I had the chance to redeem myself and instead they score right in front of me again. It’s going to be a long night. A tough night.”
This loss should not be pinned on Backlund, that needs to be made clear.
The Flames were better in Game 4 than they were in their two previous outings against the Avs, but they were still the second-best team.
It’s a credit to Backlund that he was willing to take so much of the blame, even if it wasn’t justified. There are a lot of players who wouldn’t do the same, and that personal accountability is something the Flames could probably use more of.
Make no mistake, either, that the rest of the Flames organization isn’t pinning this loss on Backlund.
“On the penalty, we wouldn’t be talking about it if we had come through on the kill there,” said Flames head coach Bill Peters. “Backs is a good pro and a good man and we win and lose together. I know that for a fact.”
ACROSS THE BOARDS
If anyone was betting on who was going to throw punches on Wednesday night, they probably wouldn’t have put their money on Elias Lindholm for the Flames and Alex Kerfoot for the Avalanche. The two got tangled up in the first period, though, and while it didn’t devolve into a full-on scrap, Lindholm did knock an off-balance Kerfoot down with a punch… Even from inside the arena in Denver, you could almost feel the prayers coming from terrified Flames fans in Calgary when Mike Smith stayed down on the ice after the Avs’ Colin Wilson came barrelling down the middle of the ice and crashed into him. Smith was ultimately OK and it was hard to tell whether he was dealing with an equipment issue or was actually in real pain. The Flames sure can’t afford to lose him, though … A 1-0 lead just doesn’t feel comfortable when you’re playing against a team with someone like Nathan MacKinnon. The Flames did a much better job containing the Avs superstar, but there were stretches — particularly towards the end of the second period — where he seemed to take over … Derek Ryan got the first playoff goal of his career when he banked in a rebound 6:58 into the third period. Ryan’s emergence in the second half of the season remains such a huge part of why the Flames were able to maintain their pace … J.T. Compher got the Avs on the board a few minutes after Ryan put the Flames ahead by two. The guy got the game-tying goal in Game 2 that led to MacKinnon’s OT winner and has been a real pain for the Avs. They’re definitely proving they are more than a one-line team … The two penalties in the final five minutes of the game for the Flames just can’t happen.
OFF THE GLASS
The Avalanche really leaned into encouraging fans to bring kale to the arena now that they’ve got Cale Makar signed to a professional contract. Sure, Flames fans probably aren’t too inclined towards giving the Avs and their fans credit for anything right now, but you’ve got to respect the creativity … The Flames had at least one more supporter than they’re used to on Wednesday night. Matthew Tkachuk’s brother Brady was in the stands and while he wasn’t wearing a Flames jersey or anything like that — his employers with the Ottawa Senators probably wouldn’t have been happy about that — he did appear to be proudly rocking a t-shirt in support of his brother … Tkachuk and his 3M linemates, Backlund and Michael Frolik, had their best showing since Game 1, although Backlund will regret his tripping penalty late in the game … There was no funny business or much extra after the play, but they got the game started with a couple strong shifts where they cycled the puck in the Avs zone and created low-risk opportunities. For most of the game, it was exactly what the Flames needed after Monday’s disaster in Game 3.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019