CALGARY – Weeks of frustration on home ice finally came to a merciful end Wednesday night for the Calgary Flames.
Sean Monahan continued his impressive rookie season, scoring his team-leading 14th goal as Calgary snapped its record seven-game losing streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome with a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
“We have great fans so we want to play hard for them and win games for them,” said Monahan. “Together as a group, we know we can be better than we were and that’s what we’re working towards.”
Monahan opened the scoring at 11:44 of the first period. It was the first time in nine home games Calgary had struck first. In fact, the Flames hadn’t held the lead in a home game since Dec. 12, the day general manager Jay Feaster was fired.
“It was nice to get one early and we started to build off that,” said Monahan, 19, who moved ahead of Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler for the team lead in goals. “It was a big moment in the game for us and that helped us carry momentum throughout the game.”
The goal was set up by TJ Galiardi’s hustle. After winning a race to the puck deep in the Coyotes zone, Galiardi promptly zipped the puck in front where Monahan tapped it in behind goaltender Mike Smith, firing up the sell-out crowd of 19,289.
“A pretty incredible play. He showed his speed to get to the puck and win that race. It was an unbelievable pass to get it over and lucky enough, I finished it,” said Monahan, who is third in rookie goals behind Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (17) and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl (15).
Calgary never relinquished that lead thanks partly to Karri Ramo, who finished the night with 30 saves to improve to 9-10-4. The 27-year-old Finn was especially sharp in the opening 20 minutes when Phoenix outshot the Flames 11-6 but trailed 1-0. He was counted on again in the third and in the final minute in particular when the Coyotes pulled Smith for an extra attacker and poured on the pressure.
“We’ve faced some tough times. But the last few home games, we’ve been playing really good too, especially against Pittsburgh we played really good and we haven’t got the reward,” Ramo said. “We deserved to win today.”
Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan also scored for Calgary (17-27-7), which scored more than two goals for just the second time since Christmas. The Flames had been outscored 22-4 during its seven-game home losing streak.
“We can take a lot defensively from this game, especially with their D that are so active,” Stajan said. “We have four more games here at home and we want to make sure we keep at it.”
Kicking off a five-game homestand, Calgary will try to make it two wins in a row Friday night against Nashville.
Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan scored for Phoenix (23-18-9), which has dropped eight of its last 11. The Coyotes remain four points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s challenging but the guys that have been around long enough in this league know that you’re gong to hit those stretches in a season. It’s how you manage to get out of it,” says Vermette.
Winless in its last five games away from home, Phoenix’s three-game road trip to Western Canada continues Friday night in Edmonton.
“Sometimes it’s tempting to get frustrated and fall into that trap. But if you do the right thing over a long period of time, eventually it’s going to turn your way,” Vermette said.
The Flames surged in front 2-0 at 8:48 of the second period on a perfectly executed fast break. Curling out from behind his own net, TJ Brodie threaded a long pass to Bouma at the Phoenix blue-line. In behind the Coyotes defence, Bouma darted in and snapped a perfect shot into the top corner.
Vermette cut the lead to 2-1 on a short-handed goal less than five minutes later but Stajan restored the two-goal cushion before the period ended .
“We’ve been down lately in a lot of games and we’ve got to be better,” said Doan, who got Phoenix back within one at 6:50 of the third. “If you look at our record, we’ve been average if that and we’ve got a lot better team than an average team.”
Smith, who had 23 saves, falls to 17-15-8.
Notes: Flames LW Mike Cammalleri (concussion) missed his sixth game. Also not dressed for Calgary was LW Paul Byron (foot)… Missing for Phoenix was C Martin Hanzal (lower body), who missed his second game and D David Schlemko (upper body). Both are day-to-day… Calgary’s only two regulation wins in the last 21 home games have come against the Coyotes. They also beat Phoenix 4-1 on Dec. 4… After 48 games without one, the Coyotes have short-handed goals in two consecutive games… With Henrik Sedin’s streak ending, Vermette (361) and D Keith Yandle (353) now have the third and fourth longest active iron-man streaks in the NHL.