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Flames edge Coyotes, get closer to playoffs

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames are one step closer to making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six years.

Sean Monahan scored the game-winner midway through the third period and Jonas Hiller made 22 saves in a 3-2 victory against the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.

Johnny Gaudreau and David Jones also scored for the Flames (44-29-7), who moved two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the race for third place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles, which lost 4-2 at the Edmonton Oilers later Tuesday, plays at Calgary on Thursday.

Each team has two games remaining; the Flames finish at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

"There are so many things going on. You never know," Hiller said. "At the end, we've got to win one of those last two games. I'd rather win on Thursday and we can go to Winnipeg knowing we've made the playoffs. It's going to be a tough game. They have their backs against the wall too, fighting for their lives. It's going to be a big matchup. I think everybody is excited about it."

A win against Los Angeles would assure the Flames their first trip to the playoff since 2009. A regulation win would eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"Coach [Bob Hartley] said that many teams wrote us off at the beginning of the season," Gaudreau said. "We wanted to make sure in our locker room that we knew ourselves that we could be a playoff team. We're just trying to prove it throughout the whole season."

B.J. Crombeen and Craig Cunningham scored for Arizona (24-48-8), which will conclude a four-game road trip Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks before wrapping up its season at home Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks. The Coyotes are 29th in the overall NHL standings.

"We've got a lot of young guys, who should be really excited to play and everybody; if you're playing in the National Hockey League, it's an honor, and our first period just wasn't good enough from pretty much everybody," Arizona forward David Moss said.

The Flames were unable to hold a pair of one-goal leads before Monahan carried the puck into the Coyotes' zone, pulled up to allow defenseman Andrew Campbell to slide by, then stepped into the slot and fired a shot that beat goaltender Mike Smith between the legs at 9:26 to break a 2-2 tie.

"[Jiri Hudler] made a great play up at the blue line to hold the guy off and lay the puck in there for me," Monahan said. "I got a chance to go there and Johnny [Gaudreau] drove the net hard to create room and I tried to do whatever I could to get a shot and fortunately enough, I put it in."

Monahan's game-winner came after Jones and Cunningham scored earlier in the period.

Jones broke a 1-1 tie at 1:13, keeping the play alive in Arizona's zone before grabbing the rebound of Michael Ferland's shot and beating Smith over the glove.

Cunningham tied the game at 7:44. Hiller ventured out of his crease to play the puck, but instead turned it over to Kyle Chipchura, who fed Cunningham for a virtual empty-netter.

"Big relief there," Hiller said. "Those things happen but at the end you stick together as a team. There's always somebody on this team to find a way to bail the other guys out. I'm happy it worked out again."

The Flames wasted little time jumping on Arizona, outshooting the Coyotes 18-7 in the first period and jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Gaudreau's goal.

With Martin Erat in the penalty box for interference, Dennis Wideman's one-timer was blocked by Michael Stone, but the puck came to Gaudreau, who dropped to one knee to one-time his opportunity past Smith at 8:49.

"I think it was just a nice play," Gaudreau said. "We've been playing really well on the power play recently and we're getting a lot of shots on net. [Hudler] was doing a good job screening the goalie and it bounced right off a skate and popped right out to me. I kind of had an empty net."

It was Gaudreau's 23rd goal, the most in a season by a Flames rookie since Paul Ranheim scored 26 and Sergei Makarov had 24 in 1989-90. It also moved him one point ahead of Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators for the scoring lead among rookies.

Crombeen got the Coyotes even late in the second period. With Calgary defenseman Kris Russell down just outside the crease after blocking a shot, Crombeen swatted the rebound of Cunningham's initial shot over Hiller to tie the game at 17:09.

Flames forward Lance Bouma left the game late in the second period after blocking a shot and did not return. Coyotes captain Shane Doan also left the game late in the middle period and did not return.

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