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Flames 5, Coyotes 2 @NHLdotcom

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - Dion Phaneuf has really hit the big time. Even Wayne Gretzky is impressed with Calgary's rookie defenseman.

Phaneuf scored his 19th goal of the season and added an assist in the Flames' 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night. Then drew praise from The Great One.

"I thought he was really solid for them," the Coyotes coach said. "He's a tremendous hockey player.

"He's physical, he's got tremendous presence on the ice and he moves the puck well. He's going to have a long career in this game and he's going to be a force for a long time."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla continues to be impressed with the play of his young teammate.

"He's had a tremendous year for us," Iginla said. "It's not just his goals, it's physically he's led our power play, which has gotten better because of him.

"All the way around, he's been very impressive."

Phaneuf's first-period, power-play tally put the Flames up 1-0 and broke the Calgary club record for rookie defensemen of 18 goals set in 1985-86 by Gary Suter.

"It's definitely an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Gary Suter," Phaneuf said. "But you can't have individual success without the help of your teammates.

"The forwards work hard night in, night out, screening the goaltender for us defensemen to get the pucks through."

The goal also tied him with Reed Larson and Phil Housley for the third-highest total by a first-year NHL defenseman. Only Barry Beck (22) and Brian Leetch (23) have scored more.

"He's in some very good company," said Iginla, who scored his 33rd goal.

Stephane Yelle and Kristian Huselius also had a goal and an assist each. Tony Amonte, Daymond Langkow and Roman Hamrlik all added two assists.

Shean Donovan also scored for the Flames, who have a five-point lead atop the Northwest Division over Colorado.

Shane Doan and Geoff Sanderson scored power-play goals for the Coyotes, who've lost two straight.

"We anticipated a lot better out of ourselves over these two games here in Alberta because we really had been playing really well as a team," Gretzky said.

The Flames opened the scoring late in the first on Phaneuf's shot past goalie Philippe Sauve, who was making his second start for the Coyotes since being acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline.

Sauve was solid, stopping 17 of 18 shots in the opening period and 32 overall.

"He fought his rear end off today, I thought," Gretzky said. "I was happy for him.

"He's come in and he's been good in our room. He works hard every day. He hasn't complained about not playing. He just shows up every day and works hard."

The Flames continued with pressure in the second and built a two-goal lead when Iginla scored on another power play.

Later in the period, Yelle tipped a point shot by Phaneuf past Sauve to make it 3-0. It was Yelle's first goal in 34 games.

"I'm a defensive player but I want to chip in more offensively and when it drags on like that, it takes a lot out of you," Yelle said. "It's good to chip in, and we need to keep that up the last six games of the season."

Doan scored for Phoenix on a power play, firing a shot past Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff.

"They've got a pretty good defensive team and Kiprusoff made some huge saves when it was 3-1," Doan said.

With 10.9 seconds left in the second, Yelle backhanded a pass from behind the net onto the stick of Donovan, who fired a high shot past Sauve.

"They never give up and they never stop," Gretzky said. "They kept coming at us and they scored with 10 seconds left and that was the backbreaker."

In the third, Sanderson fired a slap shot past Kiprusoff with Phoenix on a two-man advantage. But Huselius rounded out the scoring when he converted a pass from Langkow and put it past Sauve.

Kiprusoff finished with 24 saves for his club record-tying 39th win of the season. Mike Vernon also won 39 during the 1987-88 season.

Notes: Defenseman Jordan Leopold returned to the Flames lineup after missing three games with a groin injury. ... After going scoreless in his first four outings with the Coyotes, Former Flames C Steve Reinprecht has put up 11 goals and nine assists in 18 contests. He was chosen as the NHL's offensive player of the week on Monday after scoring five goals and adding two assists in three games.

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