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Flames blow three-goal lead, top Kings in shootout

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Unable to move up or down in the standings after clinching third place in the Pacific Division last week, the Los Angeles Kings hoped to use the final three games of the regular season to tune up for a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Instead, the Kings losing streak reached three games after Sean Monahan scored the winner in the fourth round of the shootout to lift the Calgary Flames to a 4-3 win against Los Angeles at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.

The Kings, who have also lost four of five, rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime. They learned shortly after their game ended that they will play the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round after the Anaheim Ducks beat the Sharks 5-2 to clinch the Pacific title.

"Obviously, you want to win," said Los Angeles forward Dwight King, whose third-period goal tied the game at 3-3. "You want to be playing better at the start of the game. That's something we can take from the game. Obviously, now it's behind us. We know what start we need to have and move forward."

The Flames' shootout win, their fourth consecutive victory, marked the 49th time this season they have skated to a one-goal decision, tying them with the 2010-11 Florida Panthers for the most in a single season in NHL history. The Flames also set a new franchise record with their seventh consecutive win in extra time and guaranteed at least a .500 record on home ice this year.

"It gives us a chance to set higher expectations for ourselves," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "At the same time, there's no guarantees. We'll need a big summer. We're not where we want to be and we have to be very cautious. We're very optimistic, I'm unbelievably proud of my group, but come next September, we're going to still be a team that missed the playoffs."

After Jiri Hudler and Marian Gaborik traded goals in the opening three rounds of the shootout, Monahan skated in on Jonathan Quick and fired a shot that beat the Kings goaltender high to the blocker side. Karri Ramo, who made 41 saves through regulation and overtime, stopped Mike Richards in the fourth round to preserve the win.

"I'm getting more confident, I guess, in being in that situation," said Monahan, who has four game-deciding goals this season, one back of the NHL lead. "I feel good going into it and fortunately I scored."

The Flames led the Kings 3-0 with 4:32 left in the second period on goals by TJ Galiardi, Monahan and Matt Stajan.

After failing to connect on a play seconds earlier, Mike Cammalleri sent a spinning, no-look pass through the slot and onto the stick of Galiardi, whose backhand struck all three posts before falling behind Quick to put the Flames up 1-0 at 11:58 of the first.

Curtis Glencross nearly gave Calgary a two-goal lead on the next shift, skating in 2-on-1 on Quick before hitting the far post with his shot.

Ramo got an outstretched pad on Dwight King three minutes into the second, allowing Galiardi to help put the Flames up by two 53 seconds later.

After stripping a clearing attempt from Justin Williams above the hash marks, Galiardi skated down the boards and sent a centering pass through the slot that was redirected onto the stick of Monahan, who fired his 21st goal behind Quick to extend Calgary's lead to 2-0.

Stajan's 14th goal at 15:28 of the second put the Flames up 3-0. It also apparently woke up the Kings.

Jarret Stoll put Los Angeles on the board 41 seconds after Stajan's goal with a deflection off Slava Voynov's point shot.

Twenty-four seconds after Stoll's goal, Anze Kopitar moved out from behind the net and sent a backhander over Ramo's glove to cut Calgary's lead to 3-2.

"That response right after they scored, coming back, I don't know if it was the next shift or not, but it was right after," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "They had the momentum and to not only stop it, but be able to push the meter the other way, that's a big part of the game."

Ramo stood tall near the midway mark of the third to preserve Calgary's one-goal lead, turning aside Kyle Clifford's bouncing shot with his pad before denying Williams on the doorstep following a nifty feed from Koptiar behind the net. Ramo then turned aside Gaborik's tap-in attempt, sliding post to post to keep the Flames ahead.

But after rookie Bryce Van Brabant failed to clear Calgary's end, Jake Muzzin sent a point shot on net that King tipped past Ramo at 12:18 to tie the game 3-3 and eventually force extra time. It was King's 15th goal.

"I'll take them anywhere, but it's obviously nice," King said. "I played my junior hockey close to here (in Lethbridge). I had a couple people here and my billets. It was nice."

A shootout was needed after more heroics from Ramo, who made five saves in overtime, including a stop on Alec Martinez and two on a pair of whacks by Stoll on the rebound.

"His progression has been unbelievable," Hartley said. "Right now, I think he's making a name for himself as a No. 1 (goalie), and that should give him big confidence going into the summer."

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