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Flames collect two huge points in divisional win over Coyotes

by TY PILSON @typilson /

The Arizona Coyotes have turned a lot of heads this season.

Their stingy defence, top-flight goaltending and improved attack have had them sitting in or sniffing around a playoff spot for much of the season.

But against the Flames this year, they've simply lacked enough bite.


 Video: Brendan Parker on the Flames' 3-2 win on Friday


The Flames fell behind 1-0 early to the Desert Dogs, but ended up skating to a 3-2 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome Friday night.

It was the fourth and final meeting this regular season between the Pacific Division rivals, Calgary coming out with a 3-1-0 mark.

The big two points helped put some more distance behind the teams chasing Calgary for a post-season berth - including the Coyotes - while letting the homeside continue their pursuit of a top-3 divisional finish.

For Arizona, the loss ended a modest two-game winning streak.

The Coyotes drew first blood, Calgary boy Taylor Hall scoring on the rush, taking a cross-ice pass from Clayton Keller and wiring a perfect wrist-shot short-side over the shoulder of Cam Talbot, who was starting his 300th NHL tilt.

The tally came on the Coyotes third shot of the night just 1:11 in.

That howl, though, woke the homeside up.

Matthew Tkachuk stripped Coyotes defenceman Jordan Oesterle behind the net not long after, feeding the puck out to Andrew Mangiapane who one-timed it as he fell backwards, Darcy Kuemper making the stop.

Then it was Noah Hanifin who fired a shot from the point that beat Kuemper but not the crossbar, clanging off the iron and off into the corner.

Then Derek Ryan was sprung on a breakway with a stretch pass between two Arizona defenders, Ilya Lyubushkin hooking and spinning him before he could shoot.

On the delayed penalty, Johnny Gaudreau was unable to get the handle on the rebound of Mark Giordano's shot, the puck bouncing over his stick with an open net in front of him.

No matter, he made good moments later on the powerplay.

Johnny Hockey skated into the slot and found some open ice, taking a pass from Tkachuk and snapping his own beautiful wrist shot far-side past Keumper at 5:54, with frequent partner-in-crime Sean Monahan getting the other assist.

It was Gaudreau's 18th of the season.


Video: ARI@CGY: Gaudreau puts home PPG from the slot


TJ Brodie scored his third goal in as many games a scant 41 seconds later when he snapped a shot from the blueline.

He now has four goals on the season. His most recent goal prior, of course, came with 10.4 seconds left in overtime Wednesday night to complete Calgary's come-from-behind 4-3 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.

Tkachuk laid a monster hit on Jason Demers in the right corner to make the play happen, Demers' pass attempt as he was smoked bouncing off Tkachuk's ankle and dropping near his feet, No. 19 grabbing the puck and passing up to Brodie.


Video: ARI@CGY: Brodie beats Kuemper from the point


The Coyotes had started with the first three shots of the game, culminating in Hall's goal. 

After that, though, Calgary rattled off nine of their own before Arizona got another puck on net.

The shots ended up 15-8 for the Flames in the first 20 minutes.

Tobias Rieder came close to making the lead two in the dying minutes of the frame, using his speed to catch up to a zone-clearing chip pass off the boards by Mark Jankowski, turning on the jets to get the edge on a Arizona defender and cutting hard across the crease but unable to get his backhand up-and-over the left pad of Kuemper. 

Very early in the second, Conor Garland wrapped a shot around Talbot that hit the post and went cross-crease just centimetres from the goal-line. As Garland tried to jam it home, newcomer Derek Forbort was strong wiith his stick to freeze the puck against the other post before knocking it out of harm's way.

Mikael Backlund made it 3-1 with a quick give-and-go with Mangiapane as they crossed the blueline, Backlund sweeping a shot from the high slot between the faceoff dots that eluded Kuemper.

It was his first goal in four games after scoring five in the four games prior. Tkachuk got another helper.


Video: ARI@CGY: Backlund buries wrist shot in the high slot


Carl Soderberg scored at the 10:57 mark to bring his team within one, poking a puck home that was sitting in the blue paint after an intitial save by Talbot that squeaked through his pads.

When all was said and done, the middle stanza was a pushback period for the visitors, as they outshot the Flames 21-12. 

Just before the midway point of the third period, defenceman Erik Gustafsson - acquired on trade deadline day with Forbort in separate deals - nearly notched his first goal as a Flame, his shot from the slot beating Kuemper high glove side but also clanging off the crossbar.

Kuemper left the net at 1:20 for the extra attacker but to no avail.

In fact, after going back in the net when there was a faceoff, Monahan nearly beat him.



Gaudreau on playoff atmosphere:

"Just the way the standings are, I mean how important this game was. They jump up pretty quickly close to us if they win and we lose in regulation. That just separates us a lot more. It was an important game."


Video: "Two big wins at home."


On adversity in win:

"It was great. They had an early lead and we came back, big powerplay goal, big goal by Brodes, and then I think we just kind of stuck with it the rest of the way in the game, kind of shut them down defensively and Talbs played great back there. So, big two points."


Talbot on beating division rival chasing them:

"One hundred percent. We knew that it could be either a three-point lead or a five-point lead over these guys and obviously we wanted the second part of that. It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there, you could tell that every little play mattered and guys were going to the wall tonight, so those are the kind of efforts we're going to need down the stretch."


Video: "There's no quit in us."


On team after falling behind early:

"Anytime you get down like that it's never a good thing, especially in a game like this, but after last game there was no need to panic on our bench. We knew that it was the first couple of minutes in and we still had to establish our game so we went out there, we got a big goal on the powerplay and we just kept rolling from there."


Backlund on victory:

"Ya, it's a big win for us. You know, they're right behind us going into the game and our home record hasn't been great so it's a great start for us here on the homestretch with two wins and tonight felt extra special cause - really good - because they're right behind us."


Interim coach Geoff Ward on grinding it out:

"Teams that know to win find ways to exactly what we did tonight, and that was make sure we had a response for the push and were able to stay with it and just shut it down."


Video: "I really liked the way our guys responded."



Gaudreau notched an assist in Wednesday's victory giving him 40 assists on the season. This is the sixth time he has recorded 40 assists in a season in his career which puts him in a tie for third for the most 40-assist seasons in Flames history (tied w/ Theo Fleury, Jarome Iginla). Johnny now has 15 assists over his last 18 games ... the Flames have a record of 20-17-5 against Western Conference opponents, and are 13-9-1 against the Pacific Division ... Giordano is now just eight games away from 900 in his impressive career ... Hall played his minor hockey here with the North East Canucks and captured the bantam AAA city championship during the 2004-05 season. Hall's Family then moved to Kingston, Ontario in 2005.




Tweet from @NHLFlames: Ready to go! Tonight's @Schneiders Starting Lineup!



Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm

Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Matthew Tkachuk

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube

Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder


Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson

Derek Forbort - Erik Gustafsson


Cam Talbot



The Flames continue this five-game homestand when they host the Golden Knights on Sunday at 5 p.m. (click here for tickets). After that, they have three days without a tilt before they face the Islanders Thursday at 7 p.m. (click here for tickets).

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