CALGARY – Mark Giordano returned from a broken ankle Wednesday night and, just like they had been doing before he got injured, the Calgary Flames got right back to winning.
In the captain’s first game back after missing 18 games, Giordano scored a goal and added an assist in the Flames’ 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
“For me, personally, to get back in, it was a great feeling,” said Giordano, who proudly wore the Flames fire hat after the game, emblematic of being the team’s choice of player of the game.
“I felt pretty good. Your adrenaline gets going pretty quick and I really didn’t feel my ankle at all tonight so that’s a great sign.”
Giordano’s goal was a big one, extending the Flames lead to 3-1 at 11:46 of the second period. On the power play, Giordano’s shot from the blue-line changed direction off the stick of Antoine Vermette and eluded goaltender Thomas Greiss.
“Scoring always feels great. Obviously, that one was a bit lucky, going off the stick, but it was a great feeling and I felt after that for the rest of the game, we played pretty solid,” said Giordano, who has 11 points in nine games, just four back of his point total in 47 games last year.
Giordano sustained the injury Oct. 21 in a win in Los Angeles. At the time, the Flames were 4-2-2. While he was absent, the club struggled going just 5-11-2.
“Obviously it’s a big deal to get your captain back. He’s our leader on and off the ice,” said Flames goaltender Karri Ramo. “He’s been around us the whole time he’s been hurt and trying to help the team any way he can, so it was really good to see him out there.”
TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak also scored for Calgary (10-13-4). The Flames have won consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 9 and 11 and won on home ice for just the second time in their last nine tries (2-5-2).
Keith Yandle scored the lone goal for Phoenix (16-8-4), who had won 6-2 in Edmonton on Tuesday night. The Coyotes have split the opening two games of their four-game road trip, which continues Friday night in Vancouver.
“Got unlucky with a goal at the end of the first period that probably gave them some momentum and we couldn’t get it back,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “We had lots of pucks around the net, lots of opportunities, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Trailing 1-0, the Flames got an important goal with eight seconds left in the first period when Brodie’s shot deflected in off Phoenix defenceman David Schlemko for his career-high third goal.
“That one hit me twice, once in my foot, once in my rear-end and then it goes top shelf,” Schlemko said. “Kind of an unlucky way to end the first period.”
The goal sent Calgary to the dressing room even despite being outshot 11-3.
Building off that momentum, the Flames played a much better second period, taking the lead at 5:48 when Backlund scored to end an 18-game scoreless drought.
“We came in here, we know we didn’t have our best first, they sort of took it to us for the first half. But those late goals, they usually are momentum swings and we did a great job of carrying it over into the second,” Giordano said.
Up 3-1 heading to the third period, Calgary got insurance at 2:44 in the form of their league-leading sixth short-handed goal. Matt Stajan neatly set up Stempniak on a two-on-one.
“I think we dominated that first period so kind of unlucky to come out tied 1-1 but at the same time, you have to come out in the second with a little more jump, we knew they were going to push back and we’ve got to do a better job there,” said Yandle.
The benefactor of all the offence was Ramo. Making his second consecutive start after stopping 21-of-22 shots to beat Los Angeles on the weekend, the 27-year-old Finn was excellent again with 29 saves to improve to 4-4-1.
“It was a while that I didn’t see a game but you just have to take it game by game and don’t think about the situation too much and what’s going to happen,” Ramo said. “You just have to play the game and enjoy it.”
In the pivotal second period when Calgary bolted into the lead, Ramo had a pair of solid glove saves—first denying Vermette, and in the final minute robbing Mikael Boedker.
With Mike Smith getting the night off, Greiss made his fourth start. He had 14 saves to fall to 3-2-0.
Notes: Giordano logged 20:28 in ice time and was credited with three blocked shots… Phoenix fell to 12-2-1 when they score first … The Flames won by more than one goal for just the second time. They entered the night 1-9-0 in goals decided by two or more goals … Calgary was coming off its fifth break of three or more days. Excluding the Olympic break, they have just two more breaks of that length the rest of the season … Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata saw his five-game points streak come to an end.”