CALGARY, ALBERTA – The Wild at least salvaged its road trip in a minor way.
For much of Saturday night’s affair on “Hockey Night in Canada,’’ the Wild was laying one giant egg. It somehow was turning a road trip that included an impressive victory in one of the NHL’s toughest arenas, Anaheim’s Honda Center, into a disappointment.
But all of a sudden, the Calgary Flames, up by two goals, went into a defensive shell, the Wild turned up the heat and rallied on goals less than six minutes apart by hometown boy Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard to force overtime.
Mikael Backlund, though, scored his second goal of the game with 2:35 left by knocking a rebound out of the way for a 4-3 Flames victory — Calgary’s fifth consecutive — at the Saddledome.
With the point, the Wild returned to Minnesota following a 1-1-2 road trip.
“It’s a huge point, but that’s two games in a row we put ourselves behind the 8-ball,’’ said Wild forward Matt Cooke, who scored a shorthanded goal. “It’s a self-readiness to battle at the level needed in the National Hockey League. That onus is on us. We should learn our lesson now. Two games in a row.’’
Darcy Kuemper, making his 10th consecutive start just down the road from Red Deer, Alberta, where he was a junior star, made 17 of his 28 saves in the second period. At one point, the Wild was being outshot 26-10.
Karri Ramo, the Flames’ starting goalie, was injured late in the first period while sliding to his right. In came Reto Berra, who was 6-14-2 this season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. The Wild greeted him with four shots on goal in his first 22 minutes.
“Offensively, we were on the perimeter,’’ Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “Not gritty enough, not dirty enough.’’
The Wild, two nights after being dominated in the middle frame at Colorado, was outshot 18-4 in the second period by a Flames team that ranked 28th in goals per game (2.30), shots per game (26.7) and goals against per game (3.09).
“It’s unexplainable because you watch us in the third periods, we’re a hard team to play against,’’ Cooke said.
The Wild didn’t help itself by taking three minor penalties in less than 11 minutes — an undisciplined trip by Mike Rupp, Charlie Coyle flipping the puck into the crowd and Zach Parise slashing a stick out of a defender’s hands to create a scoring chance.
Now, after TJ Galiardi gave the Flames a 1-0 first-period lead, Cooke tied the score with 5:57 left in the second on his 15th career shorthanded goal. Penalty-kill partner Kyle Brodziak went for a line change and Cooke let her rip for his ninth goal of the season.
But three minutes later, Parise took a penalty. And seven seconds after he was let loose from the box, defenseman Dennis Wideman crossed the slot and redirected partner Chris Butler’s shot under the crossbar after Kuemper was tripped by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner.
Still, the Wild drew a penalty 19 seconds into the third for a chance to tie. Instead, it surrendered its third shorthanded goal of the season for a 3-1 Flames lead. Ryan Suter tripped coming into the Flames zone, triggered a 3-on-1 with only forward Jason Pominville back.
Kuemper made the initial save, but Heatley flew right past the net and wide-open Backlund potted the easy goal.
Heatley redeemed himself later by scoring his 143rd career power-play goal, then assisting on Ballard’s tying goal with 4:05 left in regulation.
Still, the Wild left unfulfilled.
“We came into four hard buildings,’’ Ballard said, “and we’re disappointed with four points, that’s for sure.’’