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Ramo earns first shutout as Flames top Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When a team is struggling to score goals, there's one way to level the ice: Don't allow any.

That approach worked for the Calgary Flames on Monday night, as Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan scored in front of Karri Ramo, who stopped 23 shots to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0.

It was the first shutout in 69 NHL appearances for Ramo, who spent the past four seasons playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. The Flames had gone without a shutout in their previous 117 games.

The tight-checking effort was what the light-scoring Flames needed. Shut out in five of their previous eight games, Calgary entered the game aiming to limit the Hurricanes' opportunities, and they did for 60 minutes.

"We blocked lots of shots and chipped lots of good pucks in a smart way," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "Whenever we needed Karri, he was there. He fully deserved [the shutout] because he made some big saves at the right time."

Backlund, whose goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday snapped the team's 174:59 scoring drought, put the Flames up 1-0 with 4:34 remaining in the second period. With Hurricanes forward Patrick Dwyer in the box for hooking, Backlund tucked a loose puck under Anton Khudobin for his seventh of the year. Jiri Hudler started the play with a centering pass that deflected off the skate of Hurricanes forward Radek Dvorak. Dennis Wideman earned the second assist.

"I was just trying to get a good, quick whack before he got a hand on it," Backlund said. "I was happy to see it go in."

The Flames effectively shut down Carolina in the third period, limiting the Hurricanes to six shots.

Monahan gave the Flames some breathing room at 9:36 with his 13th goal. With TJ Galiardi and Paul Byron leading a 3-on-2, the rookie beat Khudobin for a 2-0 lead. From there, Calgary clamped down on defense, keeping the Hurricanes away from the slot to close out the game.

"We've struggled with that," Monahan said. "We came together as a group, blocked shots and did the little things to win the game."

While Ramo was not tested often, he was sharp on several occasions. He stayed square on a couple bids by Nathan Gerbe in the second period, then stopped Gerbe again in the third period on a rebound attempt off Jordan Staal's shot.

The shutout was a long time coming for Ramo, who made his NHL debut in 2006-07 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He spent the past four seasons playing in Omsk Avangard in the KHL, where he earned 18 shutouts.

"Hockey is hockey, and for a goalie, it's not so much more different (in the KHL)," Ramo said. "It's pretty much the same job wherever you go. It's basically just a high-level game, so it helps a lot."

But he admits there is something special about finally getting one in the NHL.

"You think about playing a bunch of games, but not having finished one without a goal," Ramo said. "So, it's good to get it out of the way. Everyone knows the situation. You just have to focus and play normally. "

Carolina (19-18-9) has followed a five-game winning streak with consecutive shutout losses. The Hurricanes were blanked 3-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

"It's disappointing," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller admitted. "We have four days ahead of us to sit on it. When you play teams like Calgary, it's going to be a game in the trenches. They defended well and played hard, and we just didn't do enough and win 1-on-1 battles."

The Hurricanes were expecting a better effort with Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash returning to bolster the forward ranks.

"We didn't have that extra jump," Muller said. "We had three new guys in the lineup who hadn't played for a while. Some fresh legs and a couple days off, I thought we were ready to jump out there in the first, but [Calgary] came out hard."

The Flames (16-24-6) remain far off the playoff pace in the Western Conference, but the hardworking win is a step in the right direction for a team looking to turn the tide.

"We had a tough week last week," Backlund said. "It was huge for us to shut the door and score a couple. We had to go back to basics, starting against Pittsburgh. If you do that, eventually the goals are going to come."

The Flames played without leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri, who suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh and did not make the trip to Carolina. All the more reason, Hartley figured, to give the Flames some credit.

"It's a feel-good story, that's for sure," he said. "We had an answer for their pressure. We were on our toes. The guys were going real short [shifts], so we had plenty of energy. We were on a mission."

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