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Flames upend Sabres 3-1

AP - Sports

Buffalo Sabres at Calgary Flames - 03/18/2014

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Some expected Mike Cammalleri would be another team at this point, helping a playoff contender down the stretch.

Cammalleri stuck around in Calgary after the trade deadline, and he's playing as well as he has all season.

Cammalleri's 20th goal midway through the third period helped the Flames defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Tuesday night.

''I thought a few weeks ago, he was shooting as well as he is now, but it just seemed the puck would find a pad or find a post or miss the net,'' Flames coach Bob Hartley said. ''Right now, Cammy's on fire.''

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 center, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, also took over the team lead in goals from rookie Sean Monahan.

''It's not a surprise to us,'' Hartley said. ''He's very talented. He's Johnny-on-the-spot. He has that knack to find that open space around the net.''

Just as he showed 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.

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.

''It's fun to play well at home. We love our fan support,'' Cammalleri said. ''In the first period, we didn't really have the bite to our game that we would have liked to, but I'm proud of the group to get it going again and playing the last 40 the way we wanted to.''

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, which beat Nashville.

''We're playing as well as we can possibly can play on the road,'' Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. ''I don't think they had too many chances and all of a sudden we had a 1-on-3 with two minutes left in the second period and we tried to stickhandle through two guys.

''It's just so disheartening is what it is when you have 90 percent of the guys going and a few that are not.''

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.

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 on Colborne's eighth goal of the season.

Lieuwen finished with 23 saves in losing his first decision. Joni Ortio had 13 stops to even his record at 4-4-0.

''Extremely frustrating,'' Stafford said. ''We've been lacking offense. I've felt as though, for the most part, we've gotten stellar goaltending and tonight we cleaned up our defensive game for the most part, especially in the neutral zone. It was one of our better efforts.''

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 after he was born two weeks ago. ... Not dressed for Calgary was rookie Kenny Agostino, who signed on Monday after Yale's NCAA season came to an end. 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.

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