GLENDALE, Ariz. – Even when they were red-hot, the Phoenix Coyotes spent a lot of time playing with fire.
On Thursday night, they finally got burned.
The Calgary Flames, in a game they had to have, made the Coyotes pay for their string of bad first periods, scoring three times on the way to a 4-2 victory at Jobing.com Arena that ended the Coyotes' 11-0-1 run.
Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen scored in the first 17:23 of the game and the Flames, who remain in 11th place in the Western Conference with 69 points, snapped a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) and started March in the right direction.
"We were definitely desperate," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who iced the game by scoring into an empty-net with 46.8 seconds left – his 24th goal of the season and 31st in 57 career games against Phoenix. "Not even as much as the standings, we just needed to get momentum going back our way. We need to start with one win. The guys really competed hard tonight."
Miikka Kiprusoff made 29 saves as the Flames snapped a six-game losing streak against Phoenix (0-4-2) dating back to March 31, 2010. It was even more important considering the Flames play Friday in Anaheim, where they have lost 14 times in a row to the Ducks.
"We've had trouble beating these guys for the last few years," Flames forward Matt Stajan said. "So now we got to Anaheim, another building where we've had some trouble and get two more points and go from there. "
Raffi Torres and Michal Rozsival scored early in the second period for the Coyotes. But Phoenix couldn't get any closer – Ray Whitney was stoned by Kiprusoff on a breakaway later in the period and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson hit the post behind Kiprusoff with 13 minutes left in regulation.
The Coyotes were 11-0-1 in February, but ended the month with a string of poor first periods – falling behind 3-0 to Los Angeles (Feb. 21), 2-0 to the Flames in Calgary last Thursday and 1-0 to Vancouver on Tuesday.
Phoenix managed to rally to win all three games in shootouts, but couldn't make it up the mountain this time, starting March with their first regulation defeat since a 4-1 home loss to Anaheim on Jan. 31. The Coyotes were able to keep their two-point lead in the Pacific Division when San Jose lost 1-0 at home to Buffalo Thursday.
"We've been coming from behind too many times," captain Shane Doan said. "If you do that too much you're going to get burned and tonight, that first period was about as bad as we've been in a while and it cost us. We couldn't come back from it."
Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith came into the game with 11 straight wins, a span in which he allowed just 16 goals. But the Coyotes dug a huge first-period hole with poor play and a flurry of turnovers that the desperate Flames were happy to pounce upon.
It started when Ekman-Larsson's lazy pass in his own zone was redirected by Iginla. Calgary's captain found Alex Tanguay, who set up Cammalleri for a one-timer that Smith never saw at 14:09. But the Flames were just getting started.
With TJ Brodie in the penalty box for hooking – one of four penalties Calgary took in the first 20 minutes – Glencross beat Whitney down the wall and fired a shot from a sharp angle right before the goal line that somehow squeezed between Smith's flexed knee and the post at 16:00. It was Glencross' 20th and only the second shorthanded goal by this Flames this season.
Calgary came within three seconds of getting another shortie on the same penalty kill. As Brodie was exiting the box, Rozsival surprised defense partner Keith Yandle with a drop pass in his own zone. Yandle lost the handle and Jokinen swooped in to grab the puck and lift it over Smith for his 20th goal and the Flames had a 3-0 cushion, putting a rare smile on the face of Calgary coach Brent Sutter.
"I want our team to be a team that's going," Sutter said. "We play better like that. When we're sitting back, our forwards seem to be skating backwards in the neutral zone and we have no forecheck. I like us to be on our toes and going."
But as they did during their month-long string of wins, the Coyotes regrouped and got back into the game quickly with a dominant second period.
Taking advantage of a carry-over penalty to start the second period, Torres parked himself in front of the net and tipped home Yandle's one-timer from the point at 1:27 to start the long road back. Just 2:21 later, Coyotes Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal forced a Tanguay turnover and Rozsival jumped up into the slot to one-time a bomb under the crossbar for his first goal since last March 24 to pull his team within a goal.
But Kiprusoff slammed the door from there, denying Whitney on a breakaway and again from close range with his mask before catching a break when Ekman-Larsson's shot found iron in the third.
"We pushed back a little bit, but ultimately when you don't deserve to win you usually don't win," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We passed to the other team instead of ours … They came in and were going to compete hard, and we just didn't put the work in to push back."
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 CGY
Wrist shot -
2 - 0 CGY
Backhand shot -
3 - 0 CGY
3 - 1 CGY
Wrist shot -
3 - 2 CGY
PPG - EN -
Wrist shot -
4 - 2 CGY
Interference on goalkeeper