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Ramo, Flames top Stars for seventh straight win

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Karri Ramo made 35 saves for the Calgary Flames, who won their seventh consecutive game by defeating the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Thursday at American Airlines Center.

But Ramo was quick to credit his teammates for the streak continuing.

"We're playing way better as a five-man unit. Our D and forwards have been playing way better together and we are cutting our turnovers," Ramo said. "They [opponents] have to earn everything that they get. We are not giving them anything. We're playing right on the edge and frustrating guys. We're just playing the hockey we can and everybody is trying their hardest."

Sean Monahan , Dougie Hamilton and Mason Raymond had goals for Calgary (15-14-2), which has won 11 straight games in December, dating back to last year. The Flames have won consecutive road games for the first time this season.

"They came back against us [on Dec. 1] and haven't lost since," Stars center Jason Spezza said, referring to a 4-3 Flames win in which Calgary overcame a three-goal deficit. "They played well, but if we put the puck in the net a little better we'd have a good chance to win that game."

Johnny Oduya had a first-period shorthanded goal for Dallas (23-7-2), which has lost two of its past three games.

Ramo's biggest save of the night came 5:35 into the third period when he made a spectacular windmill glove stop on a wrist shot from the slot by Alex Goligoski, who was attempting to score off a rebound after Ramo had denied Stars captain Jamie Benn.

"Especially in that third period, Karri came up with big saves," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "We knew it, that they would come at us real hard. We saw Jamie Benn and [Tyler] Seguin and [Jason] Spezza and company making a big push. We were under siege and [Ramo] came up with some big clutch saves. We blocked lots of shots too, but I thought that Karri was the difference in tonight's game."

Ramo also made a save on Benn's tap-in bid in front of the net at 10:03 during a power play.

"He was pretty good," Benn said of Ramo. "I think he saw a lot of the shots that we put at him, and any goalie in this league will stop those."

Hamilton broke a 1-1 tie with 29 seconds left in the first period, snapping a shot from the right circle that hit the right post and went past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

Oduya's fourth goal of the season and second in as many games came at 12:44 of the first period and gave the Stars an early lead. Oduya scored off a rebound after Ramo stopped Vernon Fiddler's wrist shot from the right circle. The goal came nine seconds after Cody Eakin was penalized for tripping.

"They're a fast team," Oduya said of the Flames. "Their D is very involved in the play. They're smart defensively. In their end, they don't make that many mistakes so it's tough to get in there and get scoring chances. I think we had enough chances to win today, sometimes that's what it is."

But Calgary scored twice before the period ended.

"Everyone came to play," Hartley said. "We knew it would be a tough game. Here's a team on offense, they're basically unstoppable. They come from everywhere. Their d-men are on the rush. They're very skilled. Once they get in the zone, they spread you around and they create confusion. We had some huge kills, our penalty killing was real good and I thought that was the difference in the game."

Monahan tied the game at 15:29, capping a long rush up the left side by beating Lehtonen top shelf to the short side from the left circle for his 11th of the season. Hamilton put the Flames ahead 4:03 later with his fourth.

"We talked about really cleaning up our start, and I thought we cleaned up our start. Our puck movement and our play in the neutral zone was good. We make a big mistake, and we gave them some life. There wasn't much life in that club to that point. They couldn't even get over the blue line for the most part on their power play. That five minutes [late in the first] was the difference in the game really," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Raymond scored his third goal of the season when he beat Lehtonen top shelf to the far side with a wrist shot from the high slot with 2:30 remaining in the second period. Lehtonen was screened by Mikael Backlund and David Jones and didn't see Raymond's shot until it was too late.

"It started in our D-zone," Raymond said of his goal. "I'm not even sure who it was in the corner, but [Backlund] made a good play too to dump the puck and we had an odd-man rush, 3-on-2. I was able to get to the middle, get a shot off and I think the goalie was screened, so was able to get a good look. Again, that was a big goal for us, [gave us a] two-goal lead."

Lehtonen finished with 24 saves before being lifted for an extra attacker with 2:30 remaining in the third period. The Stars managed only one shot on goal with the sixth skater.

Dallas still has the fourth-ranked power play in the NHL (21.6 percent). But the Stars were 0-for-3 with the man advantage on Thursday and are 5-for-45 in their past 14 games. It's a definite area of concern for Ruff.

"It's struggling. We're a little bit locked up. We're not making quick enough decisions, and almost every decision we do make is the wrong one right now," Ruff said. "The execution part of it, we got in a couple of times and then we didn't make the right play. We'll come out of it. It's going to take some hard work."

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