CALGARY -- The Phoenix Coyotes will be sorry to see February end.
Ray Whitney scored and added the shootout winner as the Coyotes rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday night. Whitney’s snap shot past Miikka Kiprusoff's blocker stood was the only goal in the tiebreaker as Mike Smith turned aside all three Calgary shooters to earn the victory -- Phoenix’s sixth consecutive against the Flames and eighth victory against Calgary in their last nine meetings.
The Coyotes are 9-0-1 this month with two games remaining
"We’re all smiles and happy right now because we keep finding ways to win," captain Shane Doan said. "It might not be pretty and it might not be the way coaches have it drawn up at the beginning but we’ve found ways to come back. It gives us a belief system in your game that you know you can do it."
It’s the same belief system that Michael Cammalleri and the Flames have been searching for.
"Sometimes after a game, you do -- you sit back after a game and say ‘We deserved a better fate. Let’s focus on the positive.’ I don’t think that’s the case tonight," he said. "I think tonight we need to be well aware of the fact that that’s not near good enough."
Thanks in large part to Smith’s ninth consecutive victory, Phoenix -- the NHL's hottest team -- have 10 points in 10 games this month and 71 for the season, the same as Pacific Division-leading San Jose, which has two games in hand. Phoenix is five points clear of Dallas, Calgary and Los Angeles, all of which have 66 points, and is just two behind sixth-place Chicago.
Pretty good for a team that looked to be on the way to an early summer after losing at home to Anaheim on Jan. 31, its first game after the All-Star break.
"We recognize how quickly things can change," Doan said. "You talk to us 2 1/2 weeks ago, three weeks ago and things were pretty bleak and we were one of the teams on the outside looking in and now we feel we’ve got a little bit of a roll and we’ve talked about keeping it going and building on it."
The Flames forced overtime when Olli Jokinen tied the game with just 1:46 remaining in regulation. With time ticking down and Radim Vrbata in the penalty box for interference, Jarome Iginla’s cross-slot pass was poked away by Oliver Ekman-Larsson but went directly onto the stick of Jokinen, parked beside Smith. Jokinen’s second poke pushed the puck by the pad of the Coyotes netminder.
Jokinen’s heroics were needed after a bad break in the third period left them trailing 3-2.
Lugging the puck up the ice out of the Flames zone as the last man back, Scott Hannan stumbled and fell. Whitney picked up the puck and went in alone on Kiprusoff; he faked a backhander and pulled the puck to his forehand, fooling Kiprusoff and sliding the pick into a virtually empty net at 10:27 of the third period.
"We had a tough break on the third goal," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "We were able to hang in there and find a way to get an important point. It’s a big point. We’re not happy or satisfied. We feel that we should have gotten both tonight."
The bounces didn’t start the way the Flames would like in the first period, either.
Curtis Glencross, playing in his first game after missing 13 with a knee injury, almost put the Flames on the board 7:30 in. On a scramble in front of Smith, Glencross poked the puck through the crease and off the post before it was cleared out of harm’s way.
The same misfortune struck recently acquired Antoine Vermette 20 seconds later. Streaking on off the rush, the newest member of the Coyotes struck the outside of the post to keep it scoreless.
The Flames were then the beneficiary of a more favorable bounce at 8:35. After Smith left his crease to clear the puck, Alex Tanguay knocked down the attempt and centered the puck to Cammalleri in the high slot. Instead of finding his intended target, the puck hit Lauri Korpikoski and redirected into the empty net to make it 1-0.
That edge was extended to 2-0 on a goal by Matt Stajan with 4:22 remaining in the period. After taking a cross-slot pass from Tanguay, Stajan fired the puck over the right shoulder of Smith for his first goal since Dec. 15.
The Coyotes got even in the second after a pair of fortunate bounces of their own.
In the Phoenix end, Glencross wired a shot that hit Stajan in the back of the legs. The Coyotes picked up the loose puck and headed up ice. Former Flame Daymond Langkow, coming late, took a pass in the high slot from Ray Whitney and wristed a shot behind Kiprusoff at 1:32 to make it 2-1.
After Vrbata hit the post redirecting a slap pass off the stick of Michal Rozsival, Shane Doan was able to deflect an Ekman-Larsson point shot into the net with 2:52 remaining in the middle period to tie the game 2-2. The play came about after Blake Comeau blindly threw a backhanded clearing attempt up the middle from the goal line.
In the end, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was satisfied with earning the two points.
"I didn’t think we executed very well in the first period," Tippett said. "They got one goal with a real bad break off a skate and went into an empty net. We got ourselves back in the game. We got a break on our third goal and then I thought they got a break on the penalty call coming back. Fitting it went to a shootout and we’ll take the extra point."