It was the sort of game that tends to happen in Phoenix – slow going with offense and flow hard to come by. The Coyotes play a restrictive, disciplined system under Dave Tippett which tends to turn things into a grind through the mud. The Flames, playing in their second night of a B2B and lacking one half of their top defensive pairing with Giordano out due to injury, struggled to find their footing through a majority of the evening as a result.
The first was a pretty uneventful affair. The Coyotes controlled play at even strength, although they didn’t actually direct that many pucks on net. Nevertheless, they looked dangerous, in part because Joey MacDonald seemed really uncomfortable whenever the puck crossed the Flames blue line. He badly misplayed a faux shot/pass play during a Phoenix PP, leading to an easy empty-net goal for Radim Vrbata to open the scoring. Things ended 1-0 on the scoreboard and 4-3 in terms of scoring chances for the Coyotes in the first.
The second was more active for both teams, although the Coyotes continued clogging shooting lanes and getting their sticks in front of Flames shots. Calgary still only had five shots on net about half way through the middle frame. Phoenix upped their lead to two goals off a crease scramble, where Mike Ribeiro managed to deflect a fluttering puck down and past a surprised MacDonald.
Lee Stempniak brought the Flames to within one near the end of the second period. A TJ Galiardi pass to Kris Russell off the rush resulted in a toe save by Smith. Fortinately for the Flames, he was unable to save the rebound.
Calgary opened the third with perhaps their best flurry of the game. For the first five minutes the visitors controlled play, out-chanced the hosts 4-1 and managed to tie the game off of a nifty Joe Colborne break away goal, which was set up by Jiri Hudler, extending his NHL leading point streak to nine games.
Things weren’t tied for long however, because Mike Ribeiro fired his second goal into a yawning cage after some sustained pressure by the Coyotes. That was all she wrote for the Flames who would only generate another two chances for the rest of the period. Rob Klinkhammer iced it with an empty-netter.
Why the Flames Lost
Because their goaltending was suspect and they couldn’t do much against the Coyotes persistent, constricting defensive play. Calgary definitely missed Giordano as well, which resulted in a very uneven top-3, bottom-3 rotation on the back-end. Chris Breen’s NHL debut was undistinguished – he played just 6:26 and was outchanced +0 -4.
Flame of the Game
Dennis Wideman played nearly 30 minutes of ice and lead the team with 6 shots on net. He ended up scoreless and -2, but it was still a pretty decent effort on a night that didn’t feature many stand-out performances for the Flames.
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Sum it Up
Calgary falls to 4-3-2 and have now lost three of their last four. The Flames weren’t completely outclassed by Phoenix in this one, but they were never in the driver’s seat either. If Mark Giordano is out for any length of time, the team will have to find someone who can play more a few minutes a night to bring a bit of balance to the blueline. Also, there’s no question that Karri Ramo will be playing the next game.