Arizona Coyotes finish homestand with win over Mike Smith, Flames
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes played the last of five consecutive home games on Monday, beating former Coyote and now-Flames goalie Mike Smith to finish the homestand 3-2-0.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s go-ahead goal in the third period — and his empty-netter that followed — marked career goals No. 100 and 101 for the defenseman, and another empty-netter by Max Domi lifted the Coyotes (24-37-11) to a 5-2 win over Calgary.
Arizona is now 15-10-6 since the new year, a vast improvement since going 9-27-5 through Dec. 31.
“I think it’s huge for next season,” Ekman-Larsson said. “It’s kind of weird to talk about the next season, but I think if we can finish strong here and we’re playing the right way, that will help us going into next year.”
Though Arizona was outshot 44-30, Antti Raanta’s 42 saves in his second game back from injury kept his team in the game. The Coyotes also killed three penalties.
“We’re going to talk about how great ‘O’ [Ekman-Larsson] played and this and that — [Raanta] played outstanding,” said coach John MacLean, who was filling in for Rick Tocchet while he was away to attend his mother’s funeral in Toronto. “He was focused, he was ready to play tonight. Made some huge saves early, he gave it to us so you could tell his focus level was right where it needed to be.”
A scoreless first period ended with Calgary leading the shots on goal total 16-9. The Flames went to the power play twice in that frame, once when Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for charing on a big hit on Mark Giordano, and later when Domi was called for high-sticking.
In the second period, the Coyotes went to the power play at 0:18 when Travis Hamonic received an interference penalty. It was Arizona’s only man advantage of the night, and Calgary killed it off.
At 5:15, a pass on the rush from Clayton Keller to Richard Panik resulted in the game’s first goal, making it 1-0 Coyotes.
At 9:05, Dougie Hamilton — the brother of Coyotes forward Freddie Hamilton, who was scratched on Monday — took a shot that beat Raanta short side. That tied things up at one apiece.
Later in the frame, a cross-ice pass by Calgary pulled Raanta out of position and allowed Sean Monahan to shoot in a puck that bounced out in front. It was his 31st of the season to make it 2-1 at 15:28.
Before the second intermission, though, Domi tied it right back up when he stole a puck in the Calgary zone, skated toward Smith and beat his former teammate to make it 2-2.
That was where the score would stay until late in the third period, when Domi carried the puck just over the blue line from the neutral zone and gave a one-handed pass to Ekman-Larsson while under pressure. Ekman-Larsson skated down the left side, took a shot from high in the left circle and beat Smith glove-side.
It was 3-2 at 19:39.
The empty-netters from Ekman-Larsson and Domi made for two Coyotes each getting a multi-goal game, and led to the 5-2 final score. The Flames needed the two points that they didn’t get, sitting six points out of a playoff spot with eight games left in their season.
“Toc’s been preaching this all year to these guys, and now it’s understanding,” MacLean said. “They’re understanding the system, they understand the coaching staff, everything was new at the start of the year and now it’s coming.
“For us to get to play in some games — as I said, we understand where we are — but to play against teams that are fighting [to make the playoffs], they have to play hard.”
The Coyotes have 10 games left, only two of which are at home: March 31 vs. St. Louis and April 7 vs. Anaheim. Wednesday will mark the start of a six-game road trip when Arizona faces the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have one fewer point than the Coyotes for the lowest point total (58) in the league.
With the win on Monday, Arizona is tied with the Vancouver Canucks for seventh place (59 points) in the Pacific Division.