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Flames fall to Phoenix 3-2 in pre-season finale

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Coach Bob Hartley dubbed his team’s last pre-season game a final exam.

His players made the test run a little longer than expected.

Trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, the Calgary Flames forced overtime before dropping their final exhibition game of the pre-season to the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday night.

Hartley expects to hand out his grades tomorrow as the Flames look to make several more cuts to bring his roster down to three goalies, 8 defencemen and 15 forwards.

“We were all in the office,” he said. “We kind of did a list. Tomorrow morning we’re going to regroup, see if we have any change of heart and after that we’ll make some decisions.”

Zbynek Michalek ended Hartley’s test at 3:53 of overtime, firing a shot by a screened Reto Berra to give Phoenix the victory.

Calgary pushed in the third and cut into the Coyotes’ lead to force overtime after Phoenix starter Mike Smith stymied a trio of Flames.

But Lance Bouma wasn’t one of them.

Helping his bid to make the team, Bouma swatted a Matt Stajan rebound behind Smith at 9:16 to cut Phoenix’s lead to 2-1.

“It’s been nice to have some success scoring goals and getting them at good times,” Bouma said.

The goal came after a series of big saves from Smith to keep Calgary off the board.

Just 1:10 into the final frame, Mark Giordano found David Jones parked on the edge of the crease, but he couldn’t beat Smith with a pair of whacks. Smith was equally strong three minutes later, flashing a pad on Dennis Wideman’s wrister and Sean Monahan’s rebound attempt.

Corban Knight drew the Flames even at 11:08.

After Ben Street missed the net with his initial shot, the puck bounced off the end boards, through the slot and onto the stick of Knight. Knight corraled the puck and ripped a shot by Smith to tie the game 2-2.

“I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Knight said. “I don’t know if it’s going to help a whole lot but it doesn’t hurt.”

Berra made that score stand through regulation.

With just under four minutes remaining in the game, the Flames goalie stoned Jordan Szwarz on a breakaway, taking away the five-hole to force the game to overtime.

It was the biggest of his 22 saves on the night.

“I gave everything I had,” Berra said. “I think I did pretty good. I think I can play in this league but it’s not my decision at the end.”

Though Calgary finished with a strong third, it took the Flames some time to find their legs in the scoreless first period.

With 9:04 remaining on the clock, Sean Monahan directed the first puck on goal.

On the next shift, Dennis Wideman nearly opened the scoring. Curtis Glencross found Wideman streaking down the slot but the veteran defenceman couldn’t beat Smith.

Knight was also denied by the Phoenix goaltender with 5:27 remaining in the first. After intercepting a breakout pass, he found Sven Baertschi streaking in on Smith. Baertschi sent a return pass to a driving Knight, but he too was denied.

After going nearly 10 minutes without a shot to close out the first period, the Coyotes wasted little time getting on the board in the second.

With Stajan in the penalty box for hooking, Phoenix captain Shane Doan deflected an Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot between the legs of Berra just 1:36 into the middle frame.

The Coyotes continued to push as part of the 12-shot stanza and kept the Flames without one for over nine minutes.

When Calgary managed to get the puck to the Coyotes goaltender Smith stood tall, kicking aside several scoring chances off Flames’ sticks.

Smith’s stand allowed Phoenix to take a two-goal lead late in the period.

Freezing Berra before circling behind the net, Mike Ribeiro fed Ekman-Larson at the point. Ekman-Larson paused before ripping a shot from the slot over Berra’s blocker to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead heading into the third.

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