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Nystrom scores four but Flames top Predators

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The biggest night of Eric Nystrom's career wasn't enough to beat the team that drafted him.

Nystrom scored all four of the Nashville Predators' goals in regulation Friday night, but the Calgary Flames rallied to force overtime and earned a 5-4 victory when Sean Monahan scored in the fourth round of the shootout.

"It's frustrating, for sure," Nystrom said. "We want to have four points on this road trip so far. To let that slide, it's really, really frustrating. I don't care if I score nine; if they score 10, it's a loss. We had that game in our hands."

Nystrom, who spent his first four seasons with the Flames after Calgary took him with the 10th pick in the 2001 NHL Draft, capped his big night when he deflected Matt Cullen's shot into the net with 9:13 remaining in regulation. But Mikael Backlund and David Jones scored 1:09 apart after the Predators got into penalty trouble, pulling the Flames even.

Calgary's Jiri Hudler scored in the second round of the shootout, and Nashville's Roman Josi matched him in the third round. Monahan slid a backhander through the legs of goaltender Devan Dubnyk to start the fourth round, and the game ended when Nashville's Ryan Ellis was denied by goaltender Reto Berra on a backhander.

"I [saw] a couple guys try to go to his blocker side there and obviously Hudler came down and brought it to his backhand and something opened up so I tried to do the same," Monahan said. "Fortunately enough, I found a spot through the five-hole."

The win gives the Flames back-to-back victories to start a five-game homestand at Scotiabank Saddledome after dropping a franchise-record seven straight in their own building.

"It's huge," Monahan said. "Obviously we want to win on home ice, especially. We have real passionate fans. We work hard every night for them and each other so I think coming out with these wins is huge and we've just got to keep moving forward with them."

Nystrom's eighth, ninth, 10thand 11th goals of the season, weren't enough to help Devan Dubnyk earn his first win as a member of the Predators. Dubnyk was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 15 in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks.

Instead, Monahan gave Berra, who came on in relief of Karri Ramo in the second period, the victory to remain undefeated in the shootout.

"It was an awesome game for everybody, especially for me because my family was here for the first time," said Berra, whose mother Liz and sister Graziella arrived in time for the game from Switzerland on their first trip to North America. "Great comeback and to win in a shootout again, it's really good."

The Predators led 3-1 after 40 minutes before a wild third period sent the game past regulation.

With Nashville's Rich Clune off for hooking, defenseman Seth Jones' clearing attempt found the stick of Calgary's Matt Stajan, who quickly dropped a pass to Jones. He snapped his seventh of the season over Dubnyk's shoulder at 1:24 to inject some life into the Flames and cut Nashville's lead to 3-2.

After Nystrom's goal restored Nashville's two-goal lead. Craig Smith and Paul Gaustad took penalties 24 seconds apart, giving Calgary a 5-on-3 power play. Backlund redirected Kris Russell's shot from the point past Dubnyk with 7:33 to play to make it 4-3, and the Flames got even 11 seconds after Gaustad's penalty ended when Jones deflected TJ Brodie's slap shot into the net with 6:24 remaining.

"It's been out motto all year, 'Never give up'," Brodie said. "Every game we've come out, everyone's played hard and never given up no matter what the score is. That's what we want from everyone and that's what every game's going to be like."

A matchup between two of the NHL's lowest-scoring teams got off to a fast start, with each team getting a goal before the game was four minutes old.

Nystrom opened the scoring 1:51 after the opening faceoff on Nashville's first shot. After Gabriel Bourque bobbled the puck in his dash through the slot, Nystrom swooped in and fired a shot off the inside of the post to beat Ramo.

But with Gaustad in the penalty box for holding, Mark Giordano knotted the game at 3:23. Calgary's captain took a pass from Kris Russell and one-timed it off the crossbar and past Dubnyk.

Nystrom got his second of the night 1:50 into the second period. Josi lobbed what looked to be a harmless looking dump-in on Ramo, but the puck took a big hop, forcing the Flames starter to throw his shoulder in front of it. The rebound dropped straight to an onrushing Nystrom, who tapped it in.

Nystrom completed his first career hat trick at 6:00. After a turnover kept the puck deep in the Flames zone, Gaustad threw a sharp-angled shot that skipped off Nystrom and behind Ramo to give Nashville a 3-1 lead.

The goal, which chased Ramo from the game after 12 shots, wasn't without debate. It was originally credited to Gaustad but was changed during the second intermission.

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