SUN Hockey Pool

Matt Stajan scores in OT for Flames

Lee Stempniak controls the puck against Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis at First Niagara Center on...

Lee Stempniak controls the puck against Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis at First Niagara Center on December 14, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. (Jen Fuller/Getty Images/AFP)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:00 AM ET

BUFFALO - Paul Byron is never going to be described as "truculent."

If the 5-foot-7 forward continues to contribute at this offensive clip, the Calgary Flames will have to keep him around anyway.

Byron tied it up in the third period and then assisted on Matt Stajan’s winner in the extra session as the Flames escaped with a 2-1 overtime victory in Saturday’s sloppy matinee against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

“Paulie is such a little Energizer bunny. He works hard and he’s fun to watch, and right now, he’s great to put on the ice,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley.

“He’s flying. He’s on the puck. He’s buzzing. He’s smart with the puck, and he’s giving us great minutes on penalty killing. He’s finding a way to spend Christmas in Calgary.”

Byron was drafted by the Sabres and spent two seasons in their organization — including eight skates at the big-league level — before being traded to the Flames as part of the return for hard-nosed defenceman Robyn Regehr in June 2011.

When Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke mentioned after Thursday’s firings at the Saddledome that his squad was “smaller than I want to be,” it seemed like Byron might be trade bait again, or at least a candidate for a one-way ticket to Abbotsford.

Instead, the 24-year-old is working his way up, earning a promotion to the third line with a pair of assists in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes in Calgary, and then adding two more points in Saturday’s afternoon affair in blizzarding Buffalo as the Flames started a five-game road-trip with a positive result.

“(Burke) said that there’s room for smaller players, but he just wants to put some beef beside them,” Byron said. “Hopefully, I can be one of those smaller guys. Hopefully, I have a future here.”

Saturday’s battle between two rebuilding squads — the Sabres are the NHL’s cellar-dwellers, with only seven wins so far — won’t be a candidate for re-runs on ESPN Classic Canada, but Flames starter Karri Ramo made some key stops and his teammates eventually rewarded him.

Sabres winger Matt Moulson was the only guy to solve Ramo, who kicked out 26 shots and has now limited the opposition to just one goal in four of his past five starts. The 27-year-old from Finland will be back between the pipes for the Flames in Sunday’s date with the New York Rangers on Broadway (5 p.m., Sportsnet Flames, Sportsnet Fan 960).

The Flames had a goal waved off in the opening frame due to a too-many men penalty — “We tried to get two dollars for a loonie,” Hartley quipped, admitting a pair of players jumped over the boards as Ramo arrived on a delayed penalty call — but they didn’t trail for long, either, with Byron burying the equalizer behind Jonas Enroth just 2:39 after Moulson’s third-period tally briefly broke the stalemate.

That’s likely the reason Byron was deployed again for the first shift of overtime, and he thanked Hartley for the extra ice with a pass to Stajan on a heads-up play.

“I was actually looking to one-time it, but he threw the pass pretty hard to me,” Stajan said. “It wasn’t a one-timer, but it’s actually a good thing because it was almost like a fake shot. It froze the goalie a bit, and I could take a couple of steps and let a wrist-shot go.”

For the Flames (13-15-4), Saturday’s overtime triumph marks their fourth straight 2-1 result, with a hat-trick of hard-fought wins over that span.

“We’re shoring things up defensively and when a save needs to be made, it’s getting made. Our goalies have been great,” Stajan said. “The tight games are the ones that you want to come out with. There’s so many games during a season where a bounce here or there is the difference. If you work, you usually get rewarded. We did enough to get that last bounce (Saturday), so we’ll take it.”


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