A tumultuous day for the Calgary Flames off the ice Thursday had a happy ending thanks to Chris Butler.
Butler’s second goal of the year with four seconds left in overtime gave Calgary a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Paul Byron entered the Carolina zone then curled back towards the blue-line before sending a pass across to Butler, who flung a 50-foot wrist shot past a partially screened Justin Peters.
“Paul did a great job, having great patience hanging onto the puck and I just tried to be available there and really just throw a muffin on net,” said Butler.
Peters said when Mikael Backlund crossed in front of him, he lost track of the puck.
“Just a mental lapse on my part. He went right through the line of the puck. I’ve got to do a better job of fighting to find it earlier, especially with that much time left,” said Peters.
It was an eventful day in Calgary. In the morning, president of hockey operations Brian Burke announced the firing of general manager Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod.
“It was a tough morning. Obviously it’s pretty surprising when Burkie comes down to the locker-room and delivers that type of news,” said Butler. “Jay has been such a good guy to all of us here. It’s tough to see a guy like that let go. He’s pretty responsible for bringing a lot of guys in. We certainly wish him the best and it was nice to get a win today.”
A key play in the game came with 5:25 remaining in the third period when Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, who had just scored to tie the game, was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway by Ladislav Smid.
Skinner tried to go five-hole again just like he did on his goal but this time was denied by Karri Ramo.
“Looking back, I would have done something different,” Skinner said. “I tried to open him up but he didn’t really bite on my fake. I probably shouldn’t have forced it in there.”
It was one of 29 saves on the night for Ramo, who improved to 5-5-1.
“Just trying to make the save, be big, and not give him very much to shoot at. I wanted to give a chance for our guys to win,” Ramo said.
Brian McGrattan, who scored the only goal of the opening 40 minutes, said that save was the difference.
“That was huge. That probably won us the game right there. We came out after that save was made and we were flying. You need saves like that to win games,” said McGrattan.
Calgary (12-15-4) now heads out on a five-game Eastern road swing that begins Saturday in Buffalo.
Carolina (13-13-7) will look for its first win when it wraps up a four-game road trip in Phoenix on Saturday.
“A sour end to a great effort by our team, that’s for sure,” said Peters, who falls to 6-8-2. “We played a solid game, came out strong in the third, took the play to them a lot.”
The Flames took a 1-0 lead to the third period, but for the third game in a row couldn’t hold it with Skinner tying the game for Carolina at 11:10 on a 30-foot wrist shot that trickled through Ramo’s pads.
“We had chances, we just didn’t capitalize and it came back to bite us,” said Carolina coach Kirk Muller. “I thought it was going to be a low scoring game, tight. I was happy the way we stuck with it tonight.”
Throughout the morning’s press conference, Burke alluded to the Flames as being too small, not tough enough and needing to play more hostile, or truculent as he likes to describe it.
Appropriately, it was the Flames’ most physical player, McGrattan, who opened the scoring at 17:49 the first period after some hard work by linemates Byron and Lance Bouma.
“In a tight game, coach showing confidence in us throwing us out more and more and more. I think if we do the things we did in that shift, game in and game out, he’ll have the confidence to play us more,” said McGrattan, whose goal was his first in 30 games dating back to last season.
McGrattan complimented the way the team played after the day’s events.
“We reacted the right way. A lot of things in the game that are out of your control,” he said. “You can only control the things that you do and that’s how hard you work and how good your attitude is. I think we regrouped today and got a big win.”
Both teams welcomed back veteran forwards to their lineup.
For the Flames, Curtis Glencross (knee) returned after missing 15 games and TJ Galiardi (back) drew back in after being sidelined for eight games.
Carolina got Alexander Semin (concussion) back after he missed 12 games.
Notes: The Hurricanes lost rookie Elias Lindholm early in the first period when he was hit hard into the sideboards by Mark Giordano. He will be re-evaluated on Friday. ... Galiardi has gone 21 games without a goal. ... Carolina RW Patrick Dwyer played his 300th NHL game. Backlund played in NHL game No. 200. ... The Flames improve to 7-4-2 with Giordano in the line-up. ... In its last eight home games, Calgary has given up a total of five goals over the first two periods and 14 in the third period and overtime.