CALGARY — A lot of heavy lifting done on their NHL season, the Calgary Flames start an extended rest vowing to come back as strong.
Calgary (33−13−5) heads into the all−star break the No. 1 team in the NHL’s Western Conference. The Flames were six points up on the San Jose Sharks.
Mikael Backlund’s overtime goal in a 3−2 win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday capped a 9−1−1 January for the Flames.
Oliver Kylington and Mark Jankowski also scored for the Flames. Goaltender David Rittich posted 33 saves to improve to 8−0−2 in his last 10 starts.
Sebastian Aho, Carolina’s representative in the all−star game, scored with 44 seconds left in regulation to push the game into extra time.
The NHL’s all−star festivities Saturday and Sunday in San Jose, Calif., combined with Calgary’s bye mean the Flames don’t play again until Feb. 1, when they take on the host Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
“It’s good that we take the time early on to completely shut hockey off and just relax and then the closer we get to coming back, we’ve got to get the minds ready,” Backlund said.
“Most guys were here last year and we learned a lesson from last year when we weren’t as good after the break. We know what to do this time and what not to.”
The Flames went 12−18−2 after Feb. 1 last season and missed the playoffs.
Dougie Hamilton also scored for the Hurricanes (23−20−6), who are trying to work their way into the wild−card race in the East.
Hurricanes goaltender Peter Mrazek had 22 saves and denied the Flames on several golden scoring chances.
“He enabled us to at least hang in there and get a point out of this game,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“The positive is you came in here against one of the best teams and in my opinion, we could have had that game.”
The Hurricanes finish their three−game road trip Wednesday against Vancouver before their hiatus.
Carolina carried a 26−11 margin in shots after two periods Tuesday, but trailed 2−1.
After scoring 12 power−play goals in 10 games this month, Calgary was held scoreless on four chances thanks in large part to Mrazek’s acrobatics.
The Flames didn’t get a lot of sustained pressure in Carolina’s zone until the third period.
“I don’t think we played our best game, but again, we found a way to win and I think that’s a big key,” Backlund said
“That was one of our weaknesses last year. We couldn’t find ways to win and this year, it’s the opposite. Good teams, they find ways to win.”
Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau, who was held off the scoresheet for the first time since Dec. 29, and head coach Bill Peters will represent the Flames in San Jose.
“Going into the break it’s important to go in with a good taste in your mouth,” Peters said. “I like the direction which we are trending and the contributions throughout the lineup.
“We played the best when the game was on the line in the third and I thought we had some great looks that made Mrazek make some big saves for them.
“We’ll take the two points heading into the break and well come back refreshed and ready to go.”
Tuesday’s game was the first between the two NHL teams since Peters resigned as head coach of the Hurricanes after four seasons and was hired by the Flames in April, 2018.
Hamilton and forward Micheal Ferland also played their first game in Calgary after they were dealt to the ’Canes in exchange for right−winger Elias Lindholm and defenceman Noah Hanifin at the 2018 draft.
Ferland didn’t finish the game because of an upper−body injury, Brind’Amour said.