RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes played a game Monday they probably could not afford to lose.
And they lost it.
The Calgary Flames, who have been suffering through a rough season, picked up a 2-0 victory at PNC Arena as goalie Karri Ramo earned the first shutout of his career.
Mikael Backlund had a second-period power-play score, and rookie Sean Monahan scored an even-strength goal in the third for the Flames. Ramo did the rest with 23 saves.
Why was the game so important to the Hurricanes?
They were playing at home. They needed a victory to keep pace in a Metropolitan Division that has several teams surging. The Canes (19-18-9) had won five of six, albeit losing 3-0 to Columbus in their last start.
The Flames (16-24-6) came into PNC Arena with a three-game losing streak, having been outscored 13-1. They had lost seven of their past eight games, being shut out five times. Mike Cammalleri, the Flames’ leading goal-scorer, was out with a concussion.
If the Flames wanted to turn the game into a slow-paced, grinding game, throttling the Canes’ speed, they succeeded. The first period was scoreless as the Flames had the edge in effort and in shots.
Backlund’s power-play goal came with 4:34 left in the second and gave Calgary a 1-0 lead. Jiri Hudler’s cross-ice pass hit the skate of Canes’ forward Radek Dvorak, the puck quickly angling toward the net, and Backlund was there to punch it past Canes goalie Anton Khudobin.
Backlund’s seventh goal of the season came after Canes forward Pat Dwyer was called for hooking.
Monahan, the sixth overall pick of the 2013 entry draft, scored his 13th on a rush after the Flames caught the Canes’ defensemen pinching and countered.
After a listless effort in the first period, the Canes put more pressure on the Flames and Ramo in the second. Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty all had good scoring chances – Tlusty missing an open net midway through the period.
Staal missed the past three games with a lower-body injury but was back in the lineup. Tlusty, out the past eight games after an appendectomy, was activated off injured reserve Monday.
Tlusty began the game on the third line but was shifted to the top line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin in the second period. Jeff Skinner was moved to the third line centered by Riley Nash, also returning from an injury.
The Flames had a 14-5 edge in shots in the first. Had it not been for some strong work by Khudobin, it would not have been scoreless after the first.
Khudobin made a sharp stop on a shot by Paul Byron a minute and a half into the game, sticking out his left pad. He was tested on tips and pucks flying through the crease. Late in the period, he stopped heavy shots by Mark Giordano and Backlund.
The Canes had few good scoring chances in the first against Ramo. But Ramo did make a quick move and save on a rush into the zone that ended with Skinner passing to Ryan Murphy for the shot.
Canes defenseman Brett Bellemore nearly scored on a shot from the point, the puck trickling just wide of the post with 7:30 left in the period.
Ramo was the winner when the Flames topped the Canes 2-1 in overtime Dec. 12 in Calgary. The Flames had a new face in the lineup – former Canes forward Kevin Westgarth, who was traded to Calgary on Dec. 30.
The Hurricanes do not play again until Saturday, when they host the Florida Panthers – another lengthy break and NHL scheduling quirk.