The Associated PressSUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Calgary Flames are riding a hot streak up the Pacific Division standings.
Mikael Backlund had an empty-net goal and a pair of assists, helping lift the Flames to their sixth straight victory with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Friday night. The streak is the longest active run in the NHL.
Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan also scored for the Flames, and David Rittich stopped 41 shots in his first start in seven games. Calgary is 24-16-4, in third place in the division with 52 points — eight behind Pacific-leading Vegas.
“I came in tonight knowing we won five in a row and I wanted to keep it going,” Rittich said. “The guys played well, so I didn’t have to do too much.”
Rittich started in place of Mike Smith, who played in Thursday’s 5-1 victory at Tampa Bay.
“Our goalie was great tonight. Goaltending has been the story for us all season,” Giordano said. “We enjoy playing in front of whoever is in the net but both of them have been outstanding this year.”
Evgenii Dadanov scored both goals for the Panthers, breaking a 19-game goal drought. James Reimer made 25 saves in his 16th consecutive start, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Panthers from their fourth loss in five games.
“It’s nice to see him [Dadanov] get the bounces tonight,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “Give their goalie a lot of credit. He played well, played great.”
Tkachuk put Calgary ahead 2-1 on his goal at 10:38 of the second period when Travis Hamonic’s shot bounced off Reimer’s right skate and Tkachuk poked in the rebound.
Gaudreau stretched the Flames’ lead to 3-1 on his power-play goal with 3:45 left in the second. Gaudreau’s shot from the left circle went under Reimer’s arm, off the post and into the net.
“I thought they gutted it out on a back-to-back,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. “You just have to stay steady [with these winning streaks]. You can’t get wound up and think about them. We’re going to push this group, and it’s a group that responds and has great character.”