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Hiller, Flames blank Hurricanes for first home win

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Plenty of firsts from the Calgary Flames came at the expense of the Carolina Hurricanes, who continue to seek a first of their own.

Sean Monahan, Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma each scored his first goal of the season to lead the Flames to a 5-0 victory against the Hurricanes at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday. Jonas Hiller made 16 saves to record his first shutout of the season and first with Calgary.

The win was also the Flames’ first on home ice this season.

“We’ve had a few games here and it’s nice to come out with a win here,” Monahan said. “We’ve got great fans and to win in front of them is pretty special for us.”

Hiller, who signed with Calgary as a free agent during the summer, extended his winning streak to three games. He has stopped 99 of 101 shots during that span.

“We worked really hard right off the bat and didn’t give up many chances,” said Hiller, who has alternated each start in the Flames goal with Karri Ramo so far this season. “It was definitely one of the easier shutouts I’ve had.

“It’s always nice to start off well and get a good feeling about yourself. You don’t worry about your game. You go out there and you feel good about yourself. You don’t have that many shots, but you still get that good feeling from the previous game.”

Hiller wasn’t very busy against injury-riddled Carolina, which is seeking its first win of the season (0-4-2). The Hurricanes were missing defenseman John-Michael Liles and forwards Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe to injury.

“Real concerned to be honest with you,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “Real concerned we didn't stick with it. It looked like we didn't believe, then everyone starts trying to do each other's job, and all of a sudden there's duplication, there's guys wide open and there's backdoor tap-ins. It looks really unorganized. That's what you'd seen tonight.

“You've got to weather a bit of adversity. We were fine through 15 minutes. I thought we had an even hockey game, then we take a penalty, they get a little bit of momentum, they score first, and it's 1-0. There's 40 minutes left. There's gonna be things that go wrong each and every night; it's how you react that's important.”

Carolina hung in until the late stages of the first period, when Dennis Wideman converted on the first of three goals for Calgary in a span of 5:56 over the first and second periods.

With 1:42 remaining in the first, Wideman scooped Kris Russell’s D-to-D pass up off the boards and fired a shot from the point that got behind Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who was screened, to put the Flames up 1-0. The goal was Wideman’s fourth; he’s scored the four in the past five games.

It also came almost exactly four minutes after Carolina forward Jeff Skinner picked off a Stajan pass at Calgary’s blue line before skating in alone on Hiller, but the Flames goaltender flashed his glove to keep the game scoreless.

The Flames (5-3-1) built on their lead 32 seconds into the second period.

After Calgary forward Paul Byron turned the puck over in his own end, he forced a turnover at the Flames blue line and streaked down the ice on an odd-man rush. Byron fed Stajan, who bounced a shot off the pad of a sliding Ward and just over the goal line to put the Flames up 2-0.

Monahan extended the Flames lead to three at 4:14, converting a backdoor pass from Jiri Hudler to complete Calgary’s three-goal outburst.

“[Hudler]’s a real-skilled player,” Monahan said. “I think when he has the puck you’ve got to expect the puck to get it back. I was ready for it. I thought it’d be coming, and it was right on my tape.”

After scoring 22 goals last season, the most for a Flames rookie since Jarome Iginla had 21 in 1996-97, Monahan’s first came nine games into the season. He had six goals in his first nine games in 2013-14.

“Obviously it’s been quite a few games now,” Monahan said. “I want to contribute to help get wins, and I think that was a big relief for me tonight.

“It’s always a relief putting the puck in the net but once one goes in, I think your game changes. I guess you’re a little more confident in your game. That was a big help for me.

“It happens the next shift. You just want to get back out there.”

Monahan didn’t wait long for his second. He batted down another centering feed from Hudler and tucked it behind Ward at 3:23 of the third period to extend the Calgary lead to four.

Bouma’s first followed at 5:15. He put a cross-ice pass off the rush from Josh Jooris behind Ward to give the Flames a 5-0 lead.

“Jooris, he got the puck on the wall there and he was kind of getting pinched off,” Bouma said. “He just made a great play throwing it to the net and I was lucky I was left alone and had a wide open net to tap it in.”

Like Monahan, Bouma was happy to see his first go in.

“It’s always nice to get the first one and get the monkey off my back,” he said. “It feels good. A lot of us in here got our first tonight. It was a good group effort.”

After stopping 11 shots through the first two periods, Hiller made five saves in the third to earn the 22nd shutout of his career.

“You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end,” Hiller said. “Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots. That’s a nice feeling also for the future. You know in this room everybody in this room is willing to do everything for the team and that’s what makes us successful.”

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