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Ramo, Flames dampen Devils' playoff hopes

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Calgary Flames goalie Karri Ramo put a significant crimp in those plans the New Jersey Devils had of possibly qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he made 31 saves in a 1-0 victory at Prudential Center on Monday night.

Flames captain Mark Giordano gave his goalie all the support he would need on a power-play goal 23 seconds into the third period.

New Jersey (34-29-16, 84 points) remains three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining in the regular season. The Blue Jackets (40-31-7, 87 points) begin a stretch of four games in five nights beginning Tuesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Devils close out the regular season at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and home to the New York Islanders on Friday and Boston Bruins on Sunday.

"We looked like we could play another hour and not score a goal on [Ramo]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He was right on his game and we just weren't finding holes."

The victory by Ramo (16-13-4), who made nine saves in the third period, was his first against New Jersey in five tries (1-0-3). Devils goalie Cory Schneider (16-15-11) made 21 saves.

"Karri got the fireman's hat [given by team members to the best player]," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "He deserved the truck too."

On Giordano's game-winner, he took a pass from Jiri Hudler at the point between the circles and blasted a shot that beat Schneider inside the right post.

"The pass kind of came out knuckling and sometimes those are hard to read, but [Giordano] got all of it and I didn't quite pick it up," Schneider said. "[Giordano] is a good player and he had a primary area to shoot from and he didn't miss, so it's tough to give that one up starting the third. It put us behind [and] we couldn't find a way to get one back."

At the time of the goal, Devils defenseman Jon Merrill was off for slashing. The goal ended a streak of 11 straight successful penalty kills by the Devils spanning three games.

"We had chances and opportunities and didn't stick it in the back of the net," DeBoer said. "It's been a common theme on offense; we're at the mercy of games like this where margin of error is very small. I thought defensively we were very good, but when you can't score it's hard to win."

For the second straight game, the Devils were without injured forwards Patrik Elias (head), Adam Henrique (groin), Ryane Clowe (head) and Jacob Josefson (left foot/ankle).

"Maybe it caught up to us tonight, missing some of those skilled guys in Patty and Ricco, but we played our hearts out and came up just short," Schneider said.

Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr, who logged 22:36 of ice time and generated four shots on goal, gave credit to Ramo, his former teammate.

"I played with him [Ramo] in Omsk [in the Kontinental Hockey League], but I want to see one more night like that," Jagr said. "We just couldn't score today. That's what you love or hate about hockey; games like that. We weren't able to score and it was just perfect game by him. Like baseball, it was just a perfect game. Sometimes you don't know how that happens, but it just happens.

"In my opinion I think we're going to get one more chance. It's too strange to finish like that, so you have to believe. It wouldn't make any sense to dominate like that and lose, so we keep the faith and we'll get one more chance. We'll see if I'm right or wrong."

Devils forward Ryan Carter thought he had given the Devils the lead with 1:26 left in the first from the slot, but referee Wes McCauley ruled that the momentum of the shot was caused via a kicking motion and quickly waved off the goal. A subsequent video review supported McCauley's call and the game remained scoreless.

"I saw it off my foot and between the goalies pads; [Ramo] got a piece of it and that's what propelled it in," Carter said. "The fact of the matter is [Columbus] still has to win games so we have to make sure we win. If we win games it puts some pressure on them. We know we're chasing Columbus and they've got to do what they have to do but we have to take care of business, too."

The gritty Flames (34-38-7, 75 points), who entered the game 26th in the League, improved to 18-11 in the past 29 games. The team closed out a five-game road swing with three straight victories (3-2-0) and has three regular-season games remaining.

"We're going to fight until the last second," Hartley said. "The Devils were pushing hard, but we didn't give them much. They didn't have second shots."

Ramo was fantastic in the second when he made 10 saves. He stopped Andy Greene's point blast on a Devils power-play at 1:23 and snared Steve Bernier's wicked wrist shot from the left circle that was ticketed for the far corner with his glove at 5:45. He stopped Travis Zajac's slap shot at 6:11 and Jagr's snap shot 21 seconds later.

"[Ramo] has been good all year," Giordano said. "He reminds me of [former Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff]. His style is similar, they're quick guys."

Schneider made nine saves in the second, including a stop against New Jersey native Kenny Agostino off a breakaway at 18:26. Agostino, twice named state high school player of the year at Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., took a lead pass from TJ Brodie off a Devils turnover at the Calgary blue line and wanted to go between the legs, but Schneider got his stick down in time.

"I [was] looking five-hole, didn't get all of it," Agostino said.

While he didn't score, Agostino did draw the penalty on Merrill that led to Giordano's game-winner to begin the third.

"Kenny had a good game; he was pretty upset [he didn't score on the breakaway]," Hartley said. "I felt he generated some scoring chances out there."

Ramo, who was making his eighth start in the past nine games, made 12 saves in the first. Schneider, who was making his fourth straight start, stopped seven.

"I thought we did deserve at least a point," Schneider said. "But this game catches up with you."


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