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Ramo, Hudler help Flames handle Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- It was hours before the puck dropped Wednesday at SAP Center, and Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley summed up his view of goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo.

"We've never declared a clear-cut No. 1 because I believe we have two No. 1s," Hartley said.

Ramo proved Hartley's point in a 2-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks, making 32 saves for his first shutout of the season in his ninth game. He is 5-2-1 after his third NHL shutout.

"It was my best game," Ramo said. "I felt good."

Jiri Hudler provided Ramo with all the offensive support he needed, scoring two goals, giving him a team-high 10 for the season.

"We were pretty focused the whole game," Ramo said. "We didn’t make too many mistakes. We knew that against a team like that, we have to bear down in our own zone. We didn’t panic late in the game. I think both teams played pretty well defensively. [Hudler] made a nice move and we got the win."

The Flames (14-8-2), coming off a 3-2 loss Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, won the second of back-to-back games for the third time in three tries. They are 8-0-1 in the game following a loss.

"Character," Hartley said. "It starts with our captain (Mark Giordano). We have lots of great players. They understand our situation. We want to make it to the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] and we understand the Western Conference, it's a real tough conference. But at the same time, every time we get two points we're believing more and more. It's fun to push those guys."

The Flames trailed 2-0 in each of their previous four games, but they took a 1-0 lead at 17:16 of the second period when Hudler scored a 4-on-4 goal on a slick give-and-go with TJ Brodie.

Hudler dropped a pass to Brodie in the right circle and darted to the slot, ahead of Sharks center Logan Couture. Brodie hit Hudler with a pass, and his wrist shot snuck inside the left post, extending his goal streak to three games.

"It’s easy with a guy like [Hudler] who is always getting open and he always wants the puck," Brodie said. "He dropped it to me and I knew he was going to go to the net. It just ended up working out."

The Sharks, known in past seasons for their fast starts, especially at home, allowed the first goal for the fourth straight game. San Jose (10-10-4) has lost four in a row and five of six.

"Every game is critical," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We can't put anything on cruise control and let a game slip here or there. We're in the thick of it right now. The rest of this homestand is critical but so are the next two road games and the home games after that. We're an everyday team right now just scrambling to get back to the point where we can get our heads above water."

The Sharks turned up the heat on Ramo with less than eight minutes left. Brent Burns fired a long shot toward the net, with Patrick Marleau planted left of the crease in prime position to tie the game. But Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman got his stick on the puck, making what Ramo called the save of the game. The puck went off the boards to Joe Thornton in the left circle, but Ramo made the save on Thornton’s wrist shot.

"I don't think that was the save of the night," Wideman said. "I think there were a couple pretty good saves that Karri made. I think tonight that's the best I've seen him finding pucks through traffic. I think there were a lot of shots that should have probably gone in, but he seemed to track them well."

Ramo stopped Tomas Hertl's shot from the right circle with less than three minutes left.

With 1:44 left, Sharks defenseman Justin Braun went to the penalty box for hooking center Markus Granlund. Hudler scored an empty-net power-play goal with 49.2 seconds remaining.

"They're all tough [losses], obviously, when you're chasing teams," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "We've got to start climbing at some point. It's got to start somewhere."

The Sharks outshot the Flames 11-9 in a scoreless first period, but Calgary had the best scoring chances during a flurry in the opening minute. Forward Johnny Gaudreau had a great chance from close range, but Antti Niemi rejected his shot.

Niemi, who made 17 saves, started his 17th game for the Sharks. His two backups, Alex Stalock and Troy Grosenick, are injured, and the Sharks made an emergency move, signing Ryan Lowe to a goaltender professional tryout agreement. Lowe was in the lineup as Niemi's backup. Lowe, 31, last played professionally for the Sydney Bears of the Australian Ice Hockey League. He played for San Jose State and lives here.

Stalock is on injured reserve, recovering from surgery to his left knee, and Grosenick is sidelined by an upper-body injury he sustained Tuesday at practice.

The Flames assigned forward Corban Knight to Adirondack of the American Hockey League to make room on the roster for David Jones, who was activated from injured reserve after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

The Flames announced that injured forward Mikael Backlund had an abdominal procedure Wednesday and is week-to-week. According to general manager Brad Treliving, Backlund has a weakening of the abdominal wall that was strengthened with a mesh plate. Treliving said Backlund might resume skating in two weeks.

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