CALGARY, Alberta – Mike Cammalleri's 20th goal of the season midway through the third period helped the Calgary Flames defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Calgary's Mikael Backlund beat Matt Ellis on a faceoff in the Sabres end, drawing the puck back to Chris Butler. From the blue line, Butler's shot toward the net was neatly deflected by Cammalleri past Nathan Lieuwen.
Cammalleri has been on a roll in March with seven goals in his past nine games. That came after a stretch leading up to the NHL trade deadline in which he had one goal in 14 games.
The 31-year-old, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, takes over the team lead in goals from rookie Sean Monahan.
Joe Colborne and Paul Byron also scored for Calgary. Butler added two assists as the Flames won for the ninth time in their past 11 games at the Saddledome.
Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo. The last-place Sabres, who have dropped seven games in a row, entered the night 11 points back of 29th-place Edmonton.
The Flames got an insurance goal from Byron at 13:27 of the third, making it 3-1 on Calgary's league-leading 12th short-handed goal of the season.
Byron made no mistake in wristing a shot past Lieuwen after being sprung on a breakaway by Butler.
After trading Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues, the Sabres were poised to move forward with the goaltending tandem of Jhonas Enroth and newly acquired Michal Neuvirth.
However, injuries to both of them resulted in the Sabres opening a five-game road trip with Lieuwen, 22, making his NHL debut while his backup — with 13 NHL games of experience — was Matt Hackett.
It was just three days ago that they were the goaltending duo with Buffalo's American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.
After a lackluster first period in which the Flames fell behind 1-0, they came out with more energy in the second period and took the play to Buffalo.
However, Lieuwen came up big — making a blocker save off Backlund, a glove grab off Cammalleri, and another big stop on Byron on a power play.
The Flames tied it with 1:02 left in the second.
TJ Brodie's slap shot missed the net and caromed sharply off the end boards. Sean Monahan got a stick on it and it came out to Colborne, who scored his eighth goal of the season to tie it.
Playing on a line with Monahan and Cammalleri, Colborne has been playing his best hockey of the season of late with four goals and six assists in his past 13 games.
Buffalo entered the night struggling, with just five goals in six straight regulation-time losses.
Stafford had three of them and he kept up his scoring touch, notching the opening goal at 13:22 of the first period.
Flames rookie Ben Hanowski skated behind his own net with the puck before spinning to reverse the puck the other direction.
To his surprise, however, Stafford was right there on the end boards to intercept it.
Stafford curled out front and on a wraparound, quickly tucked in his 14th goal behind surprised goaltender Joni Ortio.
Lieuwen finished with 23 saves in losing his first decision. Ortio had 13 stops to even his record at 4-4-0.
Notes: Calgary C Matt Stajan returned to the Flames lineup. He was away from the club for 13 days and missed eight games after the death of his son Emerson following childbirth two weeks ago. ... Not dressed for Calgary was rookie Kenny Agostino. Signed on Monday after Yale's NCAA season came to an end, coach Bob Hartley said he would make his NHL debut Friday against Nashville. ... Buffalo C Torrey Mitchell (lower body) returned after missing six games. ... Buffalo led after the first period for only the 11th time, which is lowest in the league. They are 4-6-1. ... Lieuwen, from Abbotsford, British Columbia, had plenty of friends and family in attendance. Included was his wife, his parents and his brother.