Next on Flames’ tricky trip: West-leading Golden Knights

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames continue arguably their most important road trip of the season on Thursday night when they face the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas.

The Flames are in fifth place in the Pacific Division and trail the Minnesota Wild by two points for the final wild-card spot in the West with 24 games to go. Calgary’s current three-game trip began Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes and will conclude on Saturday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

The Flames opened the trek in style, registering a season-high 51 shots while rallying from a 3-1, second-period deficit to defeat the Coyotes 6-3 in Tempe, Ariz.

Calgary’s Elias Lindholm had a goal and an assist to hit the 500-point mark in his NHL career, and Jakob Pelletier and Mikael Backlund each scored power-play goals to highlight a three-goal third period for the Flames.

“We knew we really needed these two points,” said Calgary forward Walker Duehr, who made it 5-3 with his third goal of the season. “This was the biggest period of the year, that third period there. … It felt good to help out the team.”

Calgary flew to Las Vegas immediately afterward to play the second half of a back-to-back set against what will be a rested Golden Knights team. Then it’s on to Denver to face the Avalanche before returning home for a difficult three-game homestand that features the NHL-leading Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the team directly above them in the playoff race, Minnesota.

“With the position we’re in, we’re going to have to buckle down for the last month and a half and string together some wins,” Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin said.

Backlund added, “We believe in each other. We’re going to keep grinding and keep giving it our best. We are not going to give up. We’re going to keep pushing each other to get to where we want to be.”

Vegas, which leads the Los Angeles Kings by two points and the Seattle Kraken and Edmonton Oilers by three points in the tightly bunched Pacific Division, comes in off a 3-2 shootout loss to the host Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. That result snapped the Golden Knights’ five-game winning streak.

It was a blown opportunity for Vegas to pick up an extra point against the Blackhawks, who are in last place in the Central Division.

Chicago’s Tyler Johnson scored the tying goal with 55 seconds remaining in regulation on a six-on-four power play after Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo picked up a delay-of-game penalty for firing a clearance pass over the glass and into the crowd. Johnson also scored the game-winner in the third round of the shootout.

“We didn’t play a very respectful game at all,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said of his team’s at-times lethargic play.

It was the second straight game in which Vegas picked up a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck into the stands in the final five minutes of the third period. Alec Martinez also did it on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights managed to hold on for a 5-4 victory.

“We did that the other night,” a frustrated Cassidy said. “That’s on us a little bit, right? You’ve got to manage it a little better with time and score. Situational hockey. Maybe it’s just more of a lower rim (around the boards). Veteran guys. You’ve just got to manage it better in those situations.”

The Thursday game will be the second of four meetings between the two teams. The Flames won the first one 3-2 on Oct. 18 in Calgary on a Backlund goal with 4:29 left in the third period.

–Field Level Media

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