Penguins slip past Flames 2-1

The Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Two goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be plenty of offense to beat the Calgary Flames.

Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen scored, Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves, and the Penguins beat the Flames 2-1 on Saturday night - Calgary's team record sixth consecutive regulation loss at home.

''It was just nice to have a close, low scoring game,'' said Fleury (26-10-1). ''It felt nice. The last few games were a little crazy so it's definitely nice and it was a good battle.''

Fleury appeared to be on his way to becoming the sixth goalie in eight games to shut out the Flames, but Mikael Backlund cut into Calgary's 2-0 deficit with a goal at 11:29 of the third period.

''It's a relief. It's hard when you chase and chase and you get scoring chances and the puck doesn't go in,'' Backlund said. ''It gets in your head a little bit. It shouldn't, but it's natural.

''But as soon as you score one, everybody settles down a little bit and you feel better.''

Ending a goalless stretch at home at a team record 196 minutes, 59 seconds, Backlund outbattled Kris Letang for the puck and scored with a slap shot from 40 feet.

''It was nice to get a goal since we haven't had too many at home here lately, but we're very disappointed that we didn't win the game,'' Backlund said.

The Penguins earned five of six points on their three-game road trip through Western Canada. They begin a three-game homestand Wednesday against Washington.

''The Western Canada swing, it's always a hype-up for these games,'' Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. ''With Sidney (Crosby) in the building, it seems like we get the best from other teams.''

Calgary will next play at Carolina on Monday when the Flames begin a two-game trip that includes a stop in Nashville on Tuesday.

They hope to find some more offense on the road.

''On the mental side, it's good but it's another loss,'' said Flames coach Bob Hartley, relieved that his team scored but not pleased with the result. ''But I can't fault the effort. Tonight was by far one of our best games lately.''

Backlund's goal got the Flames back in it, but that was all they could muster.

Pittsburgh then held on, something the Penguins couldn't do Friday during a loss at Edmonton when they blew a third-period lead and lost in overtime.

''After a disappointing third period for us last night, for us it was a much better team game,'' Niskanen said. ''We got the 2-0 lead, same situation we were in last night, and that's something we want to get better at, playing with the lead.''

Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead at 16:34 of the first period on a shot from Kunitz that beat Reto Berra over his shoulder and just under the crossbar.

The goal came on the opposite side of the ice from where Flames' Joe Colborne, with a delayed penalty coming, was tangled with Zach Sill.

The Penguins made it 2-0 at 6:42 of the second period when Niskanen's shot from the blue line through a crowd in front squeaked through the pads of Berra.

The Flames goalie had 24 saves, including two stellar stops against Crosby less than 30 seconds apart in the first period.

With the game scoreless, Crosby broke in from off the left wing but had his snap shot smothered.

Later that shift, Kunitz's pass sprung Crosby on a breakaway from the blue line but again Berra showed good reflexes in stopping the close wrist shot.

Crosby also hit a goal post in the second period, another chance that came when he blocked Mark Giordano's shot at the blue line and broke away down the wing.

Crosby finished without a point to see his seven-game point streak snapped.

Down 2-0 seven minutes into the third period, the Flames had a chance to try to get the game back to even when they got a five-minute power play after Pittsburgh defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was given a match penalty for head contact for a heavy hit along the side boards on Giordano.

But just over two minutes into the power play, with control of the puck in the Pittsburgh end, Mike Cammalleri cross-checked Brandon Sutter up high and was penalized.

Cammalleri is one of several Flames in extended scoring slumps with just three goals in his past 18 games.

Calgary is 1 for 26 with the man advantage in the last eight games.

''If we could have scored a couple power-play goals, we could have won the game. That was the difference,'' Backlund said. ''We had a few power-play opportunities and we didn't score and it's been like that for a while.''

Notes: The old mark for regulation losses at home was five, in March 2000. ... Calgary has scored just 12 goals in Berra's past 11 starts. ... Backlund's goal ended the Flames' overall shutout streak at 174:59, short of the team record of 182:42 set in November 2002. ... Calgary RW David Jones (eye) missed his fourth game. ... Healthy scratches for the Penguins were C Joe Vitale and D Simon Despres. ... Pittsburgh has won seven games in a row against the Flames, including four in Calgary. ... The Penguins improved to 10-2-1 against the West. Calgary is 7-8-4 against the East.

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