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Flames top Panthers for 6th straight win

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) The Calgary Flames are riding a hot streak up the Pacific Division standings.

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Mikael Backlund had an empty-net goal and a pair of assists, helping lift the Flames to their sixth straight victory with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Friday night. The streak is the longest active run in the NHL.

Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan also scored for the Flames, and David Rittich stopped 41 shots in his first start in seven games. Calgary is 24-16-4, in third place in the division with 52 points - eight behind Pacific-leading Vegas.

''I came in tonight knowing we won five in a row and I wanted to keep it going,'' Rittich said. ''The guys played well, so I didn't have to do too much.''

Rittich started in place of Mike Smith, who played in Thursday's 5-1 victory at Tampa Bay.

''Our goalie was great tonight. Goaltending has been the story for us all season,'' Giordano said. ''We enjoy playing in front of whoever is in the net but both of them have been outstanding this year.''

Evgenii Dadanov scored both goals for the Panthers, breaking a 19-game goal drought. James Reimer made 25 saves in his 16th consecutive start, but it wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from their fourth loss in five games.

''It's nice to see him (Dadanov) get the bounces tonight,'' Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. ''Give their goalie a lot of credit. He played well, played great.''

Tkachuk put Calgary ahead 2-1 on his goal at 10:38 of the second period when Travis Hamonic's shot bounced off Reimer's right skate and Tkachuk poked in the rebound.

Gaudreau stretched the Flames' lead to 3-1 on his power-play goal with 3:45 left in the second. Gaudreau's shot from the left circle went under Reimer's arm, off the post and into the net.

''I thought they gutted it out on a back-to-back,'' Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. ''You just have to stay steady (with these winning streaks). You can't get wound up and think about them. We're going to push this group and it's a group that responds and has great character.''

The Flames had a 10-game win streak last season.

''We'll go one game at a time here,'' Gulutzan said.

The Panthers closed within a goal at 3-2 on Dadanov's second of the game with 6:57 left in the third. Dadanov fired a shot from the right side that beat Rittich.

Backlund's empty-netter with 45.1 seconds remaining sealed the win for the Flames.

''Their goalie played good. We just didn't bury our chances,'' Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said.

Dadanov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead on his power-play goal at 27 seconds into the second. Jonathan Huberdeau passed from the right side to Dadanov in the slot and fired a wrist shot past Rittich.

The Flames tied it at 1 just 33 seconds later on Monahan's goal. Monahan took a backhanded pass from Dougie Hamilton in the high slot and one-timed the puck past Reimer for his team-leading 21st goal.

NOTES: Flames forward Jaromir Jagr missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Gaudreau leads the Flames with 52 points. ... Panthers C Aleksander Barkov was named to the All-Star game on Thursday, the only Panthers player who will participate in the game on Jan. 28.

UP NEXT:

Flames: Visit Carolina on Sunday.

Panthers: Host Vegas next Friday night.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express
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