CALGARY – The Phoenix Coyotes may not be blessed with a roster full of high-scoring forwards, but they make up for it by getting plenty of offence from the blue-line.
Defencemen Keith Yandle and Michal Rozsival scored 19 seconds apart early in the third period Tuesday as the Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 in a key Western Conference matchup.
Yandle put Phoenix up 3-1 with his 11th goal 1:53 of the third when his centring pass deflected in off the knee of Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. Roszival’s point shot through a crowd made it 4-1.
The goal gave Yandle the scoring lead among NHL defenceman with 57 points. He’s also the top scorer on the Coyotes, with five more points than veteran forward Shane Doan.
“We don’t have any 50-goal scorers or 100-points guys, we just have a lot of guys that chip in and do the dirty work and when we win, we win as a team,” Yandle said.
Calgary bounced back on Mikael Backlund’s power-play goal less than a minute later and with momentum on their side, the Flames crept to within one on Alex Tanguay’s goal at 9:28.
However, Ilya Bryzgalov stood tall in net for the Coyotes to preserve the win, finishing the night with 24 saves.
“It’s good for the fans, it keeps them in it, and it’s good for the game, but obviously it’s not good for the blood pressure,” Yandle said about the Flames’ rally.
Lee Stempniak and Eric Belanger also scored for Phoenix (37-23-11). The Coyotes have won three in a row and are tied with Los Angeles for fourth in the ever-changing Western Conference. Phoenix has two more stops on its road trip before returning to the desert for a six-game homestand.
“It wasn’t pretty, but that’s the way we play, we grind them out, it comes down to the last minute but that’s why Breezy is such a great goalie, he wins a lot of those games for us,” Yandle said.
Olli Jokinen had the other goal for Calgary (36-27-9). After playing sizzling hockey for two-and-a-half months, the suddenly banged up Flames have lost three straight for the first time since before Christmas.
“We’re at a critical point in the year and when you’re at a critical point you need to play with a huge urgency and I didn’t think we had it here tonight,” said a fuming Flames coach Brent Sutter. “I’m not going to sugar coat it, we’ve lost three in a row now at this time of the season—it’s unacceptable.”
The Flames are in eighth spot in the West, just one point up on Nashville, which has two games in hand. Anaheim, which has played three fewer games than Calgary, is only two points back.
Calgary likely needs to win at least seven of its final 10 games to assure themselves of a spot in the post-season.
“We need to be better than that, we’re an experienced hockey team that’s fighting for our lives to be in the dance in April and our play in the last three games has not been close to where we need it to be,”Sutter said.
Phoenix, which blanked Calgary 3-0 Thursday, swept the four-game season series.
“It’s great to play teams like this, they bring the best out in us,” said Vern Fiddler, who with two assists was the only Coyote with a multipoint game. “It’s crunch time. If you lose one point, you seem to slide down in the standings so you can’t afford to lose any. It’s a matter of details and we seem to be doing the right things right now.”
Phoenix took a 2-1 lead at 6:11 of the second period executing a perfect breakout from deep in their own end.
Belanger took a pass and got around a flat-footed Bouwmeester, then broke in alone on Kiprusoff and tucked a backhand under the crossbar for his third goal in his last four games.
Bouwmeester was also victimized on the game’s opening goal as Phoenix surged in front 1-0 at 8:25 of the first period.
Taylor Pyatt eluded the check of Bouwmeester and carried the puck behind the net where he passed to Fiddler, whose quick pass set-up Stempniak for a one-timer.
Bouwmeester finished minus-two on the night, taking shine off his record-setting 496th consecutive game. The 27-year-old set a new Ironman record for defencemen, passing Karlis Skrastins
“We gave them a lot of odd-man rushes, that sort of thing. Usually you get those bounces if you’re working,” Bouwmeester said.
The Flames were missing Brendan Morrison (knee) as well as David Moss, who replaced Morrison at centre on the Flames top line five games ago. Moss hurt his ankle at practice on Monday and has an undetermined injury that had him hobbling around on crutches and wearing a boot on Tuesday.
Notes: Backlund centred the top line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay…Bouwmeester’s streak began March 6, 2004… With only 11 healthy forwards available, D Brett Carson played right wing… Calgary has recalled RW Ales Kotalik from Abbotsford (AHL). If he clears re-entry waivers on Wednesday, he’s expected to suit up for the Flames Thursday night against Colorado… In the final two weeks of the season, Phoenix and Calgary each play five games. The busiest teams among the pack of playoff contenders in the West are Chicago and Dallas, who each have eight games.