CALGARY – The Phoenix Coyotes are making come-from-behind victories a habit.
Just two days after erasing a three-goal deficit to beat the L.A. Kings 5-4 in a shootout at home, the Ray Whitney scored the only goal of the shootout as the Coyotes fought back from two goals down to defeat the Calgary Flames 4-3.
“We’re all smiles and happy right now because we keep finding ways to win,” said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who scored once in regulation. “It might not be pretty and it might not be the way coaches have it drawn up at the beginning but we’ve found ways to come back. It gives us a belief system in your game that you know you can do it.”
Whitney also had a goal and an assist in regulation for the Coyotes (31-21-9), who won their fourth straight game and improved to 9-0-1 in their past 10.
“Ray’s been unbelievable for us all year,” Doan said. “He came up big again for us tonight. Him and (Radim Vrbata) and Martin Hanzal have been as good of line for a team and as valuable for our team as there is. You can’t say enough about how good they’ve been.”
Former Flames forward Daymond Langkow also scored in regulation for Phoenix.
Mike Smith made 21 saves before also turning aside both Tanguay and Jarome Iginla to secure the shootout victory. Smith extended his career-high winning streak to nine games and his personal record against the Flames to 3-0.
Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist in the first period for the Flames (28-23-10), who lost their second straight game at home.
“They’re a team that plays their style the whole game and wait for their opportunities,” Tanguay said. “Tonight we gave them a few opportunities and a few too many. It’s like we put it on a silver plate for them.
“We were able to fortunately get one point, but it certainly shouldn’t have come down to that. It’s certainly frustrating. It’s points that we gave away.”
Matt Stajan and Olli Jokinen also scored for Calgary, while Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26-of-29 shots he faced.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve hit a little bit of a speed bump,” said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, while noting that the Flames still gained a point to pull into a tie with the Kings and Stars for eighth spot in the Western Conference. “We got ourselves back in the race. Our mindset is let’s make sure that we don’t all of a sudden change our game and change the things we’ve been improving on. We’ve got to get back playing and enjoy this good challenge ahead of us.”
The game marked the return of forward Curtis Glencross and defenceman Derek Smith to Calgary’s lineup. Glencross had missed 13 games with a knee injury, while Smith sat out the last 22 with a high-ankle sprain.
Smith made an early impact as he fired a point shot on the Phoenix net that Smith bobbled before directing wide of the net.
Glencross then almost put the Flames up 1-0 when he redirected a pass from Iginla off the post before Smith kicked the puck out of the way.
A short time later, Mike Smith left his net to play the puck with Glencross bearing down on him. Tanguay intercepted Smith’s clearing attempt along the side boards and directed a pass into the slot that deflected off of Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski and into the wide-open Phoenix net.
“I didn’t think we executed very well in the first period,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “They got one goal with a real bad break off a skate and went into an empty net. We picked up our energy levels, we played with a little more urgency in the second and third period and we forced some turnovers that allowed us to play with more urgency.”
The Flames continued to press and built their lead to 2-0 at 15:38 of the opening period when Stajan converted a feed from Tanguay to end a 14-game goalless drought.
Langkow drew the Coyotes to within a goal at 1:32 of the second period when he one-timed a pass from Whitney into the top corner over Kiprusoff’s blocker.
Phoenix nearly tied the game a short time later when newly-acquired forward Antoine Vermette rang a shot off the post.
Just one second after the Flames killed off a hooking penalty to Jay Bouwmeester, Doan tipped in a point shot by Oliver Ekman-Larsson to tie the game at 2-2. Keith Yandle intercepted a clearing attempt by Calgary forward Blake Comeau to get the play started.
Whitney took advantage of a brutal turnover by Calgary defenceman Scott Hannan and scored on a breakaway at 10:27 of the third period to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead. After Hannan tripped and lost control of the puck at his own blue-line, Whitney broke in alone on Kiprusoff and made a quick move before depositing a forehand shot into the net.
With Radim Vrbata in the penalty box for tripping, Jokinen backhanded a rebound past Smith at 18:14 of the third to tie the game once again.
“It was still a very important late goal,” Iginla said. “Those points do add up, but we’ve got to win our games at home.”
After a scoreless overtime, Whitney snapped a shot over Kiprusoff’s right pad in the shootout for the winning goal.
Notes: The Coyotes acquired Vermette from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday in exchange for goalie Curtis McElhinney and a pair of draft picks. … Flames forward Krys Kolanos, who left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period, was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (19th overall) of the 2000 NHL draft in his hometown of Calgary. Kolanos, who has one assist in 10 games with the Flames, scored 17 goals and added 18 assists in 109 games with the Coyotes from 2001-06. … After the loss, the Flames are now 14-4-10 in one-goal games this season.