CALGARY – Ilya Bryzgalov says the Phoenix Coyotes are starting to play well.
With four wins in a row, it’s certainly showing.
Bryzgalov made 39 saves and Martin Hanzal had a goal and assist as Phoenix kicked off a three-game road trip through Western Canada with a 3-1 victory over the reeling Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
“We’ve started feeling better not because we’ve won four games in a row, but because we’re playing better hockey and that’s most important,” Bryzgalov said. “Sometimes you can win four games in a row but be unsatisfied with the type of hockey you’re playing but when you play good hockey overall, you’ll be fine.”
The Flames outshot Phoenix 16-9 in the first period, but could not solve the 30-year-old Russian, who made several big saves.
He slid across the crease to thwart Rene Bourque after he was set up by Jarome Iginla. Later he stopped Tim Jackman as he cut to the net, then sprawled to thwart Brendan Morrison on the rebound.
Still scoreless in the second, Bryzgalov again showed off his acrobatic style robbing defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who had raced in and one-timed Matt Stajan’s centring pass.
“Bryzy was outstanding in the first period,” said Hanzal. “He’s our best player so if he plays well, we have a better chance of winning, it’s pretty simple.”
Phoenix took the lead at 7:13 when Wojtek Wolski chased down a loose puck into the corner and wired a shot over the shoulder of Miikka Kiprusoff from a near-impossible angle.
“He came in one-on-one and tried to shoot a few times and I tried to follow him,” said Kiprusoff. “But yeah, I was late there, I was moving sideways and wasn’t quick enough to close the post. As a goalie, you have to stop those.”
It was the second goal of the year for Wolski, who scored a career-high 23 last season.
Phoenix doubled its lead at 12:33, scoring eight seconds into its fourth power play of the night.
Hanzal redirected Radim Vrbata’s shot into a crowd in front and the puck slid in off the leg of sprawled Flames forward Alex Tanguay.
“Unfortunately, you look back on this year, we haven’t been as resilient as we should be,” said Iginla. “You take a game like tonight, we were really going good early and you’re not always going to get that first goal. We didn’t get it tonight and we sagged a bit.
“In three minutes, you can get two or three goals, we have to just stay with it and keep that focus and that intensity and work ethic up, regardless of what happens.”
Calgary drew to within one on Bourque’s goal at 16:08 of the third setting up a dramatic finish, but the Flames could not pull even despite pouring on the late pressure.
“We certainly had the mindset going into the third that we need to make a big push,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “But, we never generated as much offence as we needed to until the final five or six minutes.”
In the final two minutes, Tanguay put a shot off the post.
“It’s a good mood in the locker room right now,” said Bryzgalov..
The misery continues for Calgary (7-10-0), which has lost seven of its last eight and has dropped four straight at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Five of the seven losses have been by one goal.
The Flames are second last in the Western Conference, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers.
Lauri Korpikoski, into an empty net, rounded out the scoring for Phoenix (8-5-5).
“We had a pretty bad start to the season, let’s be honest, but now we’ve won four games in a row and it’s always a great feeling when you win the games, it makes it fun to play. Right now, things couldn’t be better,” said Hanzal.
Prior to the game, Calgary announced a four-player trade with Carolina that sent defenceman Ian White and rookie forward Brett Sutter, son of general manager Darryl Sutter, to the Hurricanes in exchange for defenceman Anton Babchuk and forward Tom Kostopoulos.
The new players are expected to arrive in Calgary on Thursday, possibly in time to join the Flames at practice in the morning. Calgary hosts Chicago on Friday night..
Notes: Calgary has been outscored 24-10 in the second period this season… Phoenix has been outshot in 15 of its 18 games but has a 8-3-4 record in those games… The Coyotes improve to 6-0-3 when they score first… Four of the Flames five injured players skated with the club Wednesday morning. Out on the ice were D Adam Pardy (shoulder), LW Ales Kotalik (knee), C Ryan Stone (knee) and Raitis Ivanans (head). Kotalik and Stone have been out all season while Ivanans got hurt in the opening game and Pardy went down in game No. 2… It is Calgary’s longest losing streak on home ice since losing four in a row Jan. 13-25, 2010.