PHX – 2 CGY – 1 F/OT
The Phoenix Coyotes put their three-game winning streak on the line when they hosted the Calgary Flames Thursday night. Phoenix is quickly moving up in the standings in a tight Western Conference race and began the night tied with the Minnesota Wild for 8th place. Calgary, playing their second road game in 24 hours, was coming off a big win in San Jose and was just 1 point behind Phoenix in the standings. With Minnesota losing to Vancouver earlier in the night, the winner of this game knew they would hold sole possession of the West’s final playoff spot.
They Coyotes were looking to get off to a fast start and keep the tempo up against a tired Flames team. In the first period they did just that. Through the first 12 minutes of the game, the Coyotes were outshooting Calgary 10-4 and were clearly the faster team on the ice. Goalie Mike Smith looked very sharp and withstood a flurry of Flames’ chances late in the period.
The Coyotes are 21-4-5 when scoring first this season, and are 28-3-5 overall when Taylor Pyatt scores a goal. So things were looking good for Phoenix when Pyatt got the Coyotes off to the fast start they were looking for. With only 8 minutes gone in the 1st period, Pyatt led a 2 on 1 rush in on Flames’ rookie goaltender Leland Irving, who was making just his 5th career start. Wanting to test the young netminder early and often, Pyatt passed up the opportunity to feed Brule and took the shot himself beating Irving through the 5-hole. Irving looked shaky at first, but was equal to the task stopping 11 of 12 Coyotes’ shots in the 1st, many of which came from inside the slot.
“Yeah, I was a little rusty,” Irving said. “They seemed to shoot from everywhere, and it took me a while to settle into the game.”
The Coyotes kept applying pressure throughout the 2nd period and the game got very physical. Phoenix outshot the flames 10-4 in the period and, despite being saved by the crossbar, Irving singlehandedly kept the Flames in the game.
Momentum shifted in the third period when the Coyotes defensive leader, Keith Yandle, had a rare lapse in judgment and was unable to stay out of two separate skirmishes. The first of which led to matching roughing penalties and two minutes of four on four hockey. Calgary took advantage of the open ice and Olli Jokinen tied the game at 1, scoring his fifth goal in his last three games. Calgary almost seized control of the game when Yandle’s second penalty in 6 minutes, this time a double minor for roughing, gave the Flames numerous scoring chances. Mike Smith and the Coyotes killed off that penalty and, with the help of a broken door along the boards that halted play for a few minutes, they regained the momentum of the game.
Due to the physicality of the game, both teams were very worn out by the end of regulation. In the overtime period, the fatigue on both sides led to numerous odd-man rushes up and down the ice. A penalty on Mikael Backlund gave the Coyotes a 4 on 3 power play. Flames center Blair Jones was hit in the foot during the power play and was unable to move. In what was essentially a 4 on 2 power play, Radim Vrbata set up Shane Doan for a one timer that sent the Phoenix crowd into a frenzy and gave the Coyotes a season-high 4 game winning streak.
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett was not overly pleased with his team’s performance Thursday night, but will take the win. “It was a sloppy game, there were pucks bouncing all over the place,” Tippett said postgame. “We didn’t generate much… but we’ll take these (two) points, stick them in the bank and move on.”
He had to be pleased with his team’s defensive play, though. All night long the Phoenix defensemen, rotating only 5 for the most part, outhustled, outhit and frustrated the Flames top offensive weapons Jerome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, and Olli Jokinen. Backchecking was also a strong point for the Coyotes who surrendered only 24 total shots.
In a post game interview, Shane Doan tried to keep things in perspective. “Nine days ago we lost to Anaheim and we were 5 points out of the playoffs with four teams above us.”
After crawling back into playoff position, the Coyotes are now in control of their own destiny.
Now we’re where we want to be, but at the same time we can’t be content with that,” Doan added.
“We’re not looking to just crawl. We’re looking to run with this.”
Ray Whitney had an assist on the game-winning goal in OT. He leads the team with 50 points and has a 7-game point scoring streak (2G, 9A)
This was the first of 4 games between the Coyotes and Flames this season
Kyle Chipchura added an assist and has 14 points on the year, a new career high
About the Author
Written by Doug Podkowsky
I have a lifelong passion for hockey. My earliest memories include watching the great Islanders teams of the early 80s win the Stanley Cup. I learned how to skate when I learned how to walk. While I am no longer in my prime, physically and on the ice, I am still a student of the game and I love to offer my expertise to fans, players, kids, and anyone else who has a passion for this great game