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Flames beat Hurricanes on Butler's OT winner

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- It didn't take long for the Calgary Flames to get the message.

Less than a dozen hours, in fact.

After the team's president of hockey operations, Brian Burke, dismissed general manager Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod in the morning, the Flames responded Thursday night with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Saddledome.

With 3.6 seconds remaining in overtime, defenseman Chris Butler sailed a puck over Carolina goalie Justin Peters' shoulder to give the Flames the win, snapping Calgary's two-game losing skid on home ice. It was Butler's second goal of the season.

"It was a tough morning," he said. "Obviously, kind of surprising when Burke comes down to the locker room and delivers that type of news. Jay's been such a good guy to all of us here. It's tough to see a guy like that go. He's pretty responsible for bringing a lot of guys in. We certainly wish him the best, and it's nice to get a win today."

Butler credited defenseman Mark Giordano and forwards Paul Byron and Mikael Backlund for their play leading to his game-winner.

"I knew we got out there with about 30 seconds left," Butler said. "I saw Giordano drive in the middle lane there, jumping up. I didn't want to join, and Paul did a great job having great patience, hanging onto the puck, and I just tried to be available there and really just kind of threw a muffin on net and Backlund put a good screen there, and I don't think [Peters] saw it."

In his press conference Thursday morning, Burke, who will serve as interim GM, challenged his team to play a more aggressive style and stressed the importance of holding onto late-game leads -- both things that have been missing from the Flames in recent weeks.

The Flames didn't hold onto the third-period lead against Carolina, but they did rebound to get two points.

"The mentality on the bench was very different tonight after we gave up that goal than it's been in the past," Butler said. "We've been a little bit fragile, but I thought guys did a good job of stepping up right after we gave up that goal and really focusing on their next shift. We didn't panic, we didn't go into a shell, and I think that's a positive step forward for us tonight."

Entering the game, Calgary had surrendered 13 third-period and overtime goals in its past eight home games.

The Flames took a 1-0 lead into the third on Brian McGrattan's first goal in 30 games. But Carolina's Jeff Skinner ran the total to 14 third-period goals allowed in the past nine home games, taking a cross-slot pass from Tuomo Ruutu and sliding it between the legs of goalie Karri Ramo to tie the game with 8:50 remaining in regulation.

Skinner couldn't make it 15 despite two chances with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third. Despite being hooked by Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid while going in alone on a breakaway, the Hurricanes forward got a shot off that Ramo blockered away. He was awarded a penalty shot but was denied by Ramo a second time to keep the game tied.

"I'm just trying to make saves, trying to be big and not give too much to shoot at and if he deked, just be there," Ramo said. "I tried to give a chance to our guys to win the game."

The Flames played the physical game Burke preached in his morning press conference during the first period when they outhit Carolina 9-6, including Giordano's big hit on Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm near the Calgary bench, forcing the 19-year-old out the game after four shifts.

The Hurricanes had a few chances to open the scoring about halfway through the first period. Skinner cruised into the zone and forced Ramo to make a quick pad save, and Eric Staal dropped a pass through the slot to Ruutu, but he couldn't beat the glove of the Flames goalie, who made 10 first-period saves.

Ramo finished with 29 saves.

The Flames tried to jump-start their offense with five minutes remaining in the first. Lee Stempniak worked a give-and-go with Matt Stajan off the goal line, but Peters handled the chance for one of his nine saves in the period.

With 2:11 remaining in the second period, McGrattan chased down a dump-in and stole Peters' clearing attempt before centering it into the slot from his knees. The pass couldn't be converted, but Lance Bouma tracked down the puck and found McGrattan back in the slot, and he slid a shot under Peters' pads to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

"I've missed a couple of pretty good chances over the last week here," McGrattan said. "It's kind of nice to get the monkey off the back and at home too. I thought our line played really good tonight. Bouma and Byron really played physical tonight. That's how we're going to get a lot of our goals and a lot of our chances … playing like that."

McGrattan's goal came after Justin Faulk's shot from the slot beat Ramo but struck both posts and stayed out, starting the sequence that led to McGrattan's first of the season. It was the second time in the period that Carolina caught iron. Skinner's shot hit the crossbar seven seconds shy of the game's midway mark.

Peters stopped 28 of 30 saves for Carolina, which lost its second straight game, both in overtime.

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was happy his team could force extra time and earn a point.

"We knew we would have to work hard tonight because Calgary has been working hard here," Muller said. "We had a little lapse in the second, but I thought we really came on strong again in the third. The guys stayed with it. It's a big point when you come out west."

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