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Coyotes jump into fifth by blanking Flames 3-0

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes are leaning on a new group of skaters to step up and contribute during an injury-plagued week. But in the end, they turned to their most reliable player, their goaltender, to win a huge game Thursday.

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 39 Calgary shots of all angles and varieties to record his sixth shutout of the season as the Coyotes blanked the Flames 3-0, jumping from eighth to fifth place in the jam-packed Western Conference.

Brett MacLean, 22, scored the game-winning goal in his fifth NHL game - assisted by 21-year-olds Mikkel Boedker and Kyle Turris - and Bryzgalov did the rest as Phoenix completed a huge 2-0-1 homestand, taking five of six points from Detroit, Vancouver and Calgary on the heels of a five-game losing streak.

Bryzgalov's shutout was the 22nd of his career - 20 of them coming as a Coyote. In just his fourth year with Phoenix, the 30-year-old is within one shutout of tying Nikolai Khabibulin's franchise record.

"That's what you need this time of the year, that goalie that gives you a lot of confidence, keeps you in the game and lets you know that if you make a mistake he's going to make the save," said center Eric Belanger, who scored his 11th goal and second in two games early in the third period. "Tonight, Bryz was just outstanding."

Shane Doan added an empty netter with 1:56 left for the Coyotes, who have won all three meetings with the Flames this season. This time, they did it without Martin Hanzal (lower body), Rostislav Klesla (face), Ray Whitney (lower body) and Ed Jovanovski (facial fractures).

"We're missing key guys, but you can't worry about who's in and out of the lineup now," Belanger said. "We have 13 games left, the guys who are in have to do their job."

Chicago, Phoenix and Calgary all have 81 points, but the Hawks are fourth because they've played one fewer game and the Coyotes are fifth because they have more non-shootout wins than the Flames.

Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff had started the last 21 straight games for the Flames, but coach Brent Sutter went with backup Henrik Karlsson after Kiprusoff won 4-3 in a shootout at Dallas on Wednesday. Karlsson played well with 29 saves, but couldn't match Bryzgalov.

"It's a game we just have to move past and start getting ready for Vancouver (at home on Saturday)," Sutter said. "Karlsson played well. He looked big in the net and made some big saves. I thought we allowed (Bryzgalov) to see a lot of pucks tonight. I just didn't think we had one of our better games, so we'll be ready for the next one."

The Coyotes' penalty-killers, who had allowed at least one goal in each of the last seven games and 12 in all, stopped the NHL's No. 4 power play on all three chances Thursday -- including a big one midway through the third period when Bryzgalov stoned Rene Bourque and Anton Babchuk while stopping four shots.

"We had the power plays, had some great chances but we couldn't get it by him," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. "Bryzgalov played really well, but we'd love to have a few of those back."

After a scoreless first period, the Coyotes' kid line teamed up for a pretty goal. Turris flipped a pass to Boedker in stride and he slid a backhander across the crease to MacLean, who banged it home on his knees at 1:51 for his second NHL goal.

"Our young guys have been phenomenal when we've really needed it," said Doan, who scored his 16th goal to move into a four-way tie for the team lead. "Turris got us going against Detroit, Bods had a great game against Vancouver and Mac gets the goal tonight. Every game is so important and they are up to the challenge."

The Flames dominated the rest of the second period, but Olli Jokinen hit the post and Bryzgalov was sharp on all the rest stopping all 19 shots -- including Tim Jackman and David Moss early, and Matt Stajan and Jay Bouwmeester back-to-back late in the period.

Belanger waited patiently, took advantage of Calgary's Steve Staios falling down and rifled in a wrister from the lower right circle 4:49 into the third period to give the Coyotes some insurance before Doan's empty-netter put it away.

There was a scare 15 seconds into the third period when a shot from Bourque rang off the post behind Bryzgalov and hit referee Dean Morton, who was standing on the goal line, in the right ear. Morton was down for several minutes before leaving the game on his own power. He was able to return to the game a few minutes later.

Bouwmeester, the NHL's current ironman, played in his 494th straight game, dating to March 6, 2004. He will tie Karlis Skrastins for the all-time NHL record for consecutive games as a defenseman Saturday night when he steps on the ice as the Flames host Vancouver.

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