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Backlund leads Calgary Flames to 5-1 home win over Colorado Avalanche


CALGARY — Before their 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche at home on Saturday afternoon, the Calgary Flames went through a stretch of eight straight games where they allowed the first goal.

It took the Flames just 18 seconds to jump out to a 1-0 lead against the Avalanche when Mikael Frolik took a pass from Mikael Backlund in the slot and fired a shot past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov.

"I thought we had a good start," said Backlund, who led Calgary's offence with a goal and two assists. "We needed that, especially at home. We've been struggling with that. It was a very big win for us."

Troy Brouwer added a goal and an assist for the Flames (32-22-9), who moved past the idle St. Louis Blues into the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

"We don't have a lot of time to waste as far as accumulating points to get ourselves into the playoffs," Brouwer said.

The Flames are in an intense battle with the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings to try and lock up the second and third spots in the Pacific Division behind the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

"Anaheim's really starting to come on lately," Brouwer said. "L.A.'s made a trade and made themselves better. We have to make sure that we're keeping up with them and when we play them head-to-head we have to get wins. It doesn't really matter how we're getting points, we just need to keep accumulating points as much as we can."

Michael Frolik, Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan also scored for Calgary while Matthew Tkachuk and TJ Brodie added two assists each. Rookie Jon Gillies made 28 saves for his second straight win.

Nathan MacKinnon had the lone goal for Colorado (32-24-5), which finished its three-game road trip with a 1-1-1 record. Varlamov stopped 24 shots in his fourth straight start.

"We give up one first shift of the game and then we're kind of chasing," said Colorado coach Jared Bednar. "To be honest, I liked our first period. We had all four lines skating and playing hard and we were on our toes and put up 15 shots. We had a handful of turnovers that ended up coming back on us."

Just past the five-minute mark of the first period Gillies stopped a shot by MacKinnon then slid across his net to get his left pad on Tyson Barrie's rebound attempt.

Giordano put Calgary ahead 2-0 at 7:24 when took a Backlund pass and fired a one-timer past Varlamov.

The Avalanche pulled to within one thanks to a flukey goal by MacKinnon with 3:36 remaining in the first. MacKinnon dumped the puck in from centre and it bounced off the post then Gillies before trickling in.

"Nothing you can do about it, good or bad," Gillies said. "You just have to respond. If you want to classify it as a bad goal, OK, then you owe your team a save and that's the mindset you take on and go from there."

Monahan deflected a Michael Stone point shot past Varlamov on the power play at 10:50. Calgary has scored at least one power-play goal in six straight games and in eight of its last nine.

Brouwer snapped a shot to the blocker side past Varlamov for his fourth goal of the season at 2:39 of the third. Backlund then scored Calgary's second power-play goal of the game at 14:46 to round out the scoring.

"The third period obviously wasn't one we wanted to see out of our group, but we'll regroup and rest up," said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog, who's looking forward to starting a four-game homestand on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks after a stretch that has seen the Avs play 13 of their past 16 games on the road.

NOTES: Before the game, Calgary placed goaltender Mike Smith on injured reserve. Smith has missed the last six contests with a lower-body injury. … The Flames also recalled forwards Tanner Glass and Andrew Mangiapane from the AHL's Stockton Heat while sending forward Ryan Lomberg back to the Heat.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press

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