CALGARY – Ilya Bryzgalov continued his excellent goaltending Tuesday night as the upstart Phoenix Coyotes knocked the Calgary Flames out of first place in the Northwest Division.
Bryzgalov made 30 saves and the Phoenix Coyotes scored all of their goals in the second period of a 3-1 win over Calgary, extending their winning streak to five games while ending the Flames’ five-game unbeaten run.
With Vancouver beating the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime, the Canucks are now a point ahead of the rival Flames for first place in the Northwest.
After a scoreless first period, Daniel Winnik, Joel Perrault, and Keith Yandle scored in a six minute span in the second period. That would be all the offence Bryzgalov would need.
Since joining the Coyotes from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 17 after being claimed off waivers, Bryzgalov is 13-8-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a superb .930 save percentage.
“I’ve found a home here,” Bryzgalov said. “This is my best year in the NHL, I feel the trust, I believe in the guys and they believe in me. We have a great young team, we’ve started winning games and we have a great future if we keep working hard and believe in ourselves.”
Stuck as the back-up to Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim, Bryzgalov has been thrust into the spotlight in Phoenix starting 22 of the 24 games since he joined them.
“We have a lot of respect for Bryzgalov and he came from a great organization and won a Stanley Cup. He played with a guy in Giguere, who was one of the best goaltenders in hockey,” said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. “It’s a nice start for him and a good opportunity to be the head dog and he’s really taking a liking to it and I know the players enjoy him being in net”.
Rookies Daniel Winnik and Keith Yandle along with Joel Perrault scored for Phoenix (22-18-1), which won its sixth straight road game. The Coyotes improved to 14-8-0 on the road, surpassing their win total from a year ago (13-26-2)”.
Alex Tanguay scored the lone goal late in the third period for Calgary (22-15-7). The Flames lost in regulation for just the second time in the last eight games (12-2-4).
“This is a big eye-opener,” said Calgary centre Craig Conroy.
“We’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to get more aggressive and forecheck. We missed some chances but (Bryzgalov) played well, you can’t take anything away from him”.
Phoenix seized control of the game after a scoreless first period, scoring three straight goals and outshooting the Flames 18-8 in the second.
Winnik opened the scoring at 3:30, one-timing a Niko Kapanen pass behind Miikka Kiprusoff for his fourth goal of the season and first in 17 games.
Three minutes later, the Coyotes made it 2-0. Persistent pressure in the Flames zone was capped by Perrault’s fourth goal of the season after he was set up at the side of the net on a heady cross-ice pass from defenceman Nick Boynton.
“Maybe some of us young guys get excited to play in buildings we haven’t been in, guys from Canada coming back home to play, maybe we feed off the atmosphere in these buildings,” Winnik said searching for an explanation to the Coyotes road success.
With the Flames trailing 2-0 and desperately looking to generate some momentum, it looked like they were about to do so after killing off a 63-second two-man advantage. However, Yandle’s misfired slapshot from the blue-line sailed high into the air and past a surprised Kiprusoff with the Flames still down a man to make it 3-0.
“The exceptional teams find a way to get energized night after night. And I’m talking about the exceptional teams and there is only one in the league right now and that’s the Detroit Red Wings,” said Flames coach Mike Keenan.
Phoenix silenced the the dangerous Flames duo of Kristian Huselius and Jarome Iginla, who had entered the game with a combined 22 points (13 goals and nine assists) in the past five games.
“This streak is a good sign but we can’t stop, we have to keep moving forward because we want to play in the playoffs and there are still several teams ahead of us,” said Bryzgalov.
Calgary pressed in the third period – outshooting Phoenix 14-3 – but the Flames couldn’t muster any offence beyond Tanguay’s tip-in with 3:52 remaining.
Notes: Gretzky coached his 200th career NHL game, all of them with the Coyotes. His record is 89-100-11 … Calgary D Adrian Aucoin (groin) missed his second game in a row… The Coyotes franchise record for consecutive road wins is eight, set in April 1985… Phoenix’s penalty killing, which came into the game a perfect 12-for-12 in its previous four games, allowed just one man-advantage goal in five opportunities against the Flames.