In a playoff chase, every game is vital. Especially, when two points can be had against an inferior opponent.
Friday night, the Phoenix Coyotes had an opportunity to close their three-game Canadian road swing with a win in Calgary, but three inopportune goals kept Dave Tippett’s squad from leaving the Saddledome in a tie for eighth place with the Detroit Red Wings.
Keith Yandle’s laser from the left circle tied the score at two with just over five minutes remaining in the third period, but Mark Giordano’s shot from the point with 23 seconds left in overtime got past Mike Smith and sent Calgary home with a 3-2 victory.
Despite an early one-goal lead (Antoine Vermette rebound goal), the Coyotes didn’t play with much urgency until the third period.
But over the final 20 minutes of regulation, Phoenix peppered Joey MacDonald with shot after shot and kept the puck in its offensive zone for the majority of the period.
The Coyotes certainly earned their way to overtime — and the one point that went along with it — but they also illustrated that they have the ability to play dominating two-way hockey for more than a 20-minute stretch.
Joey MacDonald is by no means a world-class goaltender. In fact in his first meeting with Phoenix earlier in the year, the 33-year-old gave up four goals in a terribly one-sided loss.
Friday night, the Coyotes didn’t put nearly enough pressure on the Flames goaltender until they had to. For a guy two starts removed from allowing eight goals in a contest, Phoenix didn’t make MacDonald feel uncomfortable between the pipes.
Mike Smith wasn’t as effective as he had been his prior two starts, either, and during the Flames’ lone power play of the night in the second period it showed.
During the power play, Smith stopped an initial shot by Giordano, but unfortunately the puck slipped through his five-hole and former Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak took advantage and pounced on it for an easy go-ahead goal.
All three of the goals Smith allowed Friday night came with two minutes or less in their respective periods.
• The loss didn’t do too much to tarnish the Coyotes’ chances of grabbing the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. The Detroit Red Wings lost in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks, so Phoenix and Dallas remain two points back of Detroit.
• The Coyotes are 0-2 this season in Calgary and haven’t won back-to-back road games since February 9 and 11.
• Chris Conner continues to play good hockey for Phoenix. The six-year veteran recorded an assists and three shots on goal in the loss. It was just his fifth game of the year for the Coyotes.
The Coyotes will head home to face the San Jose Sharks on Monday. The puck is set to drop at 7:00 p.m. MST.