The Calgary Flames battled to a 4-3 victory over the slumping San Jose Sharks on Friday to draw level on points with the Detroit Red Wings in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Both have 81 points after the Red Wings’s shootout loss to Edmonton, but Detroit (34-23-13) remain in eighth place because they have played one less game than the Flames (36-26-9).
“Our emotion level was there tonight,” Flames coach Brent Sutter told reporters. “Our urgency level was there. Our intensity for all three periods was there.”
Rookie Mikael Blacklund put the Flames on course for the playoffs with assists on a pair of second-period goals that gave Calgary a 4-1 lead.
He also helped the Sharks get back into the game in the third period, however, when his pass to Miikka Kiprusoff slid past the netminder and gave San Jose’s Manny Malhotra the easiest of tap-ins to make it 4-2 with about eight minutes to play.
“Embarrassing,” Backlund said when asked about the mistake. “I was dying tired and was trying to freeze it. Communication in Swedish and Finnish doesn’t really work always.”
When Dan Boyle scored with 1 minute, 51 seconds to play to close the gap to 4-3, Backlund became even more concerned.
“I said to myself: ‘Please don’t score a fourth one,’” he said. “I was so mad at myself.”
Finn Kiprusoff, who had 25 saves, shut the door on the Sharks the remainder of the period, however, to ensure the Pacific Division leaders lost for a fifth successive game.
Four different players scored for the Flames. Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow gave Calgary a 2-0 first-period advantage, while Nigel Dawes and Eric Nystrom scored in the second off Backlund assists.
The latter gave the Flames a 4-1 advantage as San Jose’s Dany Heatley also scored in the second.
Russian Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots for the Sharks.
■BLUE JACKETS 4, WILD 2
AP, COLUMBUS, OHIO
Rick Nash scored two third-period goals on his return from injury as the Columbus Blue Jackets overcame a two-goal deficit to hand the Minnesota Wild a costly 4-2 loss on Friday.
The Wild came into the game in 11th place and six points behind eighth-placed Detroit in the Western Conference playoff race. Instead of getting two points, they came away with none after blowing leads of 2-0 in the second period and 2-1 with less than nine minutes left.
Nash’s shootout-like goal came just 27 seconds after Kris Russell tied it. Nash, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury, added an empty-netter in the final minute. Kristian Huselius also scored for Columbus, who have won four of five.
Mikko Koivu and Chuck Kobasew had goals for the Wild, who have dropped two in a row after a three-game winning streak.
OILERS 3, RED WINGS 2, SO
In Edmonton, Canada, Gilbert Brule scored the shootout winner and also had two assists as Edmonton beat Detroit.
Detroit’s Brian Rafalski scored during a scramble in front of the net with 0.2 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime.
Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Whitney also had goals for the last-placed Oilers, who snapped a five-game losing streak despite being outshot 17-3 in the third period.
Patrick Eaves scored the other goal for the Red Wings, whose three-game winning streak ended.
DUCKS 5, ISLANDERS 4, OT
In Anaheim, California, Saku Koivu scored 14 seconds into overtime after Lubomir Visnovsky tied it with 32 seconds remaining in regulation as Anaheim rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to beat the New York Islanders.