GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes were relieved they could force the Calgary Flames’ long skid to last at least one more game.
It wasn’t easy.
The Coyotes failed to hold a two-goal lead against the desperate Flames, but Robert Lang and Lauri Korpikoski scored the only goals in the shootout to give them a 3-2 victory Thursday night and extend Calgary’s winless streak to nine games.
The Coyotes climbed over Colorado and into fourth place in the Western Conference. They earned their 31st win of the season in the 54th game, the fastest they have reached that total in the 30-year history of the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise.
“They played last night and they are a desperate team but they climbed back into it,” said Lang, 4-of-6 in shootouts this season. “We are ahead of the Detroits and the Calgarys and we have to keep getting all the points we can.”
Keith Yandle and Shane Doan scored in regulation for the Coyotes. Mark Giordano and rookie Mikael Backlund had goals for the Flames, struggling through their longest winless streak since dropping 11 straight during December and January of the 1985-86 season.
“We got down 2-0 and we battled back to tie it up and got some quality scoring chances in the third,” coach Brent Sutter said after the Blues’ second shootout loss in two nights. “We just couldn’t get that third goal, and when it goes to the shootout anything can happen.”
Backlund and Olli Jokinen were stopped in the shootout by Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov, who earned a career-best 28th win with 24 saves.
This one came with a cost as Coyotes leading goal scorer Scottie Upshall sustained an apparent right knee injury in the final minutes of regulation and had to be helped off the ice. Upshall, who has 18 goals – eight in the last 15 games – will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Yandle snapped a scoreless tie with a power-play goal 8:32 into the second period on a slap shot that trickled between Miikka Kiprusoff’s pads. Yandle has three goals in two games. It was the 32nd goal scored by a Coyotes defenceman this season, the most in the NHL.
Doan made it 2-0 at 18:09, eluding former Coyotes forward Daymond Langkow and letting go a wrist shot that got past Kiprusoff. It was Doan’s fourth goal in six games and his 11th point in that span.
The Flames got back within a goal 1:06 later when Giordano stickhandled around defencemen Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek before squeezing the puck under Bryzgalov.
Calgary dominated play early in the third and tied the game when the 20-year-old Backlund, playing in his third NHL game, used a screen to bank in the puck off the far post for his first goal.
“I was a lot more relaxed today after being so nervous (Wednesday) in Dallas,” said Backlund, who planned to give the goal puck to his father. “We had to be desperate because we’d lost the last eight games, but I don’t think we played as well before we got behind and really picked it up.
“If we play at that level for a whole game, this team will start winning games quickly.”
The Flames thought they had another goal in the second period when Eric Nystrom tried to jam the puck through Bryzgalov, but video review was inconclusive as to whether the puck crossed the line.
“We thought we had a real good look at it from our angle, but they said there was too much equipment (on the video) to see it,” Sutter said.
NOTES: The Flames played without forwards Craig Conroy (knee), Nigel Dawes (leg) and David Moss (shoulder). Yandle has a career-high eight goals. … The Flames were in first place in the Northwest Division on Jan. 5 before a 1-9-2 skid. … The Coyotes are 20-8-2 at home after earning only 23 wins there last season. Phoenix is 24-2-2 this season when scoring first and 15-0-1 in the past 16 games it led 1-0. … Korpikoski has four goals in seven shootout attempts.