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Coyotes edge Flames, pull even with Stars

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes blew a 2-0 first-period lead, left goaltender Mike Smith hanging out to dry in the second and didn't get a single shot on their first six minutes of power-play time in the third.

Luckily, the Calgary Flames kept giving the Coyotes chance after chance to redeem themselves.

Shane Doan snapped a 2-2 tie by scoring his 350th career goal on the third of six consecutive power-play opportunities in the third period and Smith kept his team in position to win with 30 saves to lead the Coyotes to a 3-2 win at Arena.

The Coyotes won for the fifth time in the past seven games to pull even with the Dallas Stars for the eighth and final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Western Conference with 75 points. The Stars have two games in hand.

"They say a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and we're proving it," Smith said after the Coyotes coughed up a 2-0 lead for the third time in the past eight games. "But we have to realize there are good players in this League. We thought it was going to be an easy game after the first (period). We can't just tip-toe around games and expect to win, even against teams that aren't in the playoff hunt."

The Flames spent 10 minutes of the first 13:13 of the third period killing penalties. Phoenix didn't get a single shot on the first three power plays, but Doan tipped a Keith Yandle shot from the point past Calgary goalie Joni Ortio at 8:49 to put the Coyotes ahead to stay.

Phoenix has now beaten the Flames nine times in the past 10 meetings at home, outscoring the Flames 34-16 in those games. But this one was a struggle.

"We were concerned about coming back from a long [four-game Eastern] trip and you've got a team playing free and easy for jobs next year," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "That makes them a dangerous team. We got up, they pushed hard in the second and we pushed back and drew some penalties. Our power play, which has been a strength all year, got us the winning goal."

Smith was at his best in the second period, stopping 17 of 19 Calgary shots, several of them from point-blank range with no defender in the area. Smith has again become Phoenix's best player in the past six weeks, posting a 1.91 goals-against average in his past 13 starts.

"He made some saves that really showed how athletic he is as a person," Doan said of Smith. "He gave us a chance to come back in the third and win."

Chris Summers and Rob Klinkhammer gave the Coyotes a quick 2-0 lead with goals in the first 9:43 of the game. But the Flames answered with power-play goals from Curtis Glencross and Mikael Backlund during a dominant second period, when only Smith's acrobatics kept the game even.

Then came third period, when the Flames were called for hooking, boarding, holding, cross-checking, roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct before Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson finally took an interference penalty with 1:12 left in game. Doan hit the post on a power-play chance a few minutes before finally cashing in.

"I control only our players. We went to the box too many times," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "We're a young team and we want to win. We have the mentality that we're in the playoffs and we're fighting every night. We're all emotional and we're trying to regain our composure, but it piles on. We got frustrated and we paid for it."

The final penalty, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defenseman T.J. Brodie, was especially vexing to Hartley.

"Brodes never says a word. He's probably the quietest guy on the team," Hartley said. "If you asked me who would the last player on the team to take an unsportsmanlike, I would say Brodes, and he's the one who got it."

The Coyotes beat Calgary 6-0 here on Jan. 7 and were off and running again in the first period, making the most of their 10 shots to build a lead.

David Moss fed Lauri Korpikoski on a rush while Summers dug hard up the middle for the net. Korpikoski found him with a pass and Summers tipped the puck over Ortio's shoulder at 4:35 for his first NHL goal in his 34th game.

Then Ortio, who finished with 22 saves for the Flames, made a big mistake behind his own net. He went back to play Paul Bissonnette's dump-in, but mishandled a puck that squirted between his legs. Klinkhammer was lurking at the post and stuffed in the gift-wrapped opportunity in his 100th NHL game at 9:46.

The second period was all Flames. They outshot the Coyotes 19-7, had all of the choice chances and exploited the struggling Phoenix penalty kill to draw even.

After Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris took down Calgary's Lance Bouma, Glencross camped in front of the Coyotes crease and tipped a Cammalleri wrist shot past Smith at 7:46. Glencross' seventh goal of the season was his first since missing 29 games with a high ankle sprain.

The Flames kept coming and Smith made huge saves on Bouma, Cammalleri, Sean Monahan and Backlund to keep Phoenix ahead. But Jeff Halpern's tripping penalty at 14:46 of the second gave Calgary another opportunity.

Cammalleri found Backlund open at the near post and gave him a perfect pass from the corner. Backlund tipped his 17th goal between Smith's pads at 15:37 and the Flamers pulled even. It was the ninth goal allowed by Phoenix's penalty killers in their past 31 opportunities (71 percent) and the third time in the past eight games the Coyotes squandered a 2-0 lead.

"It was a weird period. I haven't seen one like that in a while," Smith said. "We didn't do many things well. But we came back in the third, made them take penalties on us and found a way."

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