GLENDALE, Ariz. – Offence is a bonus for Phoenix forward Vernon Fiddler.
By his own admission, Fiddler is a body crasher, a mucker, a defensive specialist.
That all changed Friday night when the 30-year-old Fiddler had his first NHL hat trick to lead the Phoenix Coyotes to a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Flames.
The attendance-challenged Coyotes, playing before an announced crowd of 11,117, held off the Calgary after giving up two goals in the final 49 seconds.
Fiddler had scored two goals three times in his career before breaking through against the Flames.
Growing up in Edmonton, Fiddler said he was an Oilers fan, and his hat trick against Calgary was special.
“Yeah, you always want to beat the Flames, so this feels real good,” Fiddler said. “My style is more defensive, but I guess I got three lucky bounces. The bottom line, though, is we picked two points in the standings, and that’s what this game boiled down.”
Lee Stempniak and Scottie Upshall also scored to help the Coyotes win consecutive games for the first time this season. Rene Bourque, Ian White, Alex Tanguay and Tim Jackson scored for Calgary.
“This was a big character win for us,” said Upshall, who picked up the Coyotes’ third goal of the night. “We’ve had trouble putting wins together, so this was huge for us. It’s just a big win.”
Fiddler tied it 1-1 early in the second period with his first goal of the season. He made it 4-2 midway through the final period when he jammed in a loose puck in the crease, and completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal that made it 5-2 with 1:38 to go.
The Flames made it close when Tanguay and Jackson scored 29 seconds apart in the final minute.
The Flames opened the scoring when Bourque slammed a rebound past Ilya Bryzgalov at 9:24 of the first.
Calgary peppered Bryzgalov with 24 shots in the two periods. The shot total reflected Bryzgalov’s season work load. He ranks third in the NHL in shots against, third in saves and sixth in minutes played.
The Coyotes scored three times in the first 8:21 of the second to take a 3-1 lead.
The Flames’ line of Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrison and Tanguay accounted for two points in this game, and continue to raise concern for their lack of scoring. Combined, they have 10 goals so far this season.
“Tough night again for these guys, and they need to fight through this,” Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. “Offensively, we’re not consistent, so players need to help in other ways.”
Fiddler picked up his first when he drove a loose puck behind Miikka Kiprusoff at 1:34. Then, Stempniak converted a pass from Vojtek Wolski on a 2-on-1 for his fifth of the season at 5:22. Upshall capped the spree with his fourth goal of the season, blasting the puck over Kiprusoff’s left shoulder.
The Flames responded with Ian White’s power goal with 7:20 left in the period—eight seconds after Eric Belanger was called for cross-checking. The Flames’ goal was only their third power-play score of the season on the road.
The two points were particularly important to the Coyotes.
“Points are valuable, period,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We need players to compete and battle hard. Winning in this league is not all that easy.”
NOTES: The Coyotes assigned defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to San Antonio of the AHL. He was the team’s top pick in the 2009 draft. … Phoenix captain Shane Doan missed his fourth straight game because of a lower-back injury. … Calgary star Jarome Iginla has one goal since Oct. 19.