By Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent
CALGARY -- The Coyotes will be sorry to see February end.
Ray Whitney scored in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Coyotes rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to beat the Calgary Flames, 4-3, at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday night.
Whitney’s snap shot past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff's blocker was the only goal in the shootout as Coyotes goalie Mike Smith turned aside all three Flames shooters to earn the victory.
The Coyotes are 9-0-1 this month with two games remaining.
Phoenix - the NHL's hottest team - has 71 points for the season, the same as Pacific Division-leading San Jose, which has two games in hand. Suddenly, the Coyotes (31-21-9) are five points clear of Dallas, Calgary and Los Angeles, all of which have 66 points, and are just two behind sixth-place Chicago.
That's pretty good for a team that looked to be on the way to an early summer after losing at home to Anaheim on Jan. 31, its first game after the All-Star break.
"We recognize how quickly things can change," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "You talk to us three weeks ago and things were pretty bleak and we were one of the teams on the outside looking in, and now we feel we’ve got a little bit of a roll and we’ve talked about keeping it going and building on it."
The Flames forced overtime when Olli Jokinen tied the score with just 1:46 remaining in regulation. With time ticking down and Radim Vrbata in the penalty box for interference, Jarome Iginla’s cross-slot pass was poked away by Oliver Ekman-Larsson but went directly onto the stick of Jokinen, parked beside Smith. Jokinen’s second poke pushed the puck by the pad of the Coyotes netminder.
Jokinen’s heroics were needed after a bad break in the third period left them trailing 3-2 (see KEY MOMENT below).
The bounces didn’t start the way the Flames would like in the first period, either.
Curtis Glencross, playing in his first game after missing 13 with a knee injury, almost put the Flames on the board 7:30 in. On a scramble in front of Smith, Glencross poked the puck through the crease and off the post before it was cleared out of harm’s way.
The same misfortune struck new Coyotes center Antoine Vermette 20 seconds later. Streaking in off the rush, Vermette struck the outside of the post and the game remained scoreless.
The Flames (28-23-10) were then the beneficiary of a more favorable bounce at 8:35. After Smith left his crease to clear the puck, Alex Tanguay knocked down the attempt and centered the puck to Cammalleri in the high slot. Instead of finding his intended target, the puck hit Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski and redirected into the empty net to make the score 1-0.
Photo by Getty Images.
That edge was extended to 2-0 on a goal by Matt Stajan with 4:22 remaining in the period. After taking a cross-slot pass from Tanguay, Stajan fired the puck over the right shoulder of Smith for his first goal since Dec. 15.
The Coyotes got even in the second after a pair of fortunate bounces of their own.
In the Phoenix end, Glencross wired a shot that hit Stajan in the back of the legs. The Coyotes picked up the loose puck and headed up ice. Coyotes center Daymond Langkow, coming late, took a pass in the high slot from Whitney and wristed a shot behind Kiprusoff at 1:32 to make the score 2-1.
After Vrbata hit the post redirecting a slap pass off the stick of Michal Rozsival, Doan was able to deflect an Ekman-Larsson point shot into the net with 2:52 remaining in the middle period to tie the score 2-2. The play came about after Blake Comeau blindly threw a backhanded clearing attempt up the middle from the goal line.
In the end, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was satisfied with earning the two points.
"I didn’t think we executed very well in the first period," Tippett said. "They got one goal with a real bad break off a skate and went into an empty net. We got ourselves back in the game. We got a break on our third goal and then I thought they got a break on the penalty call coming back. Fitting it went to a shootout and we’ll take the extra point."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Lugging the puck up the ice out of the Flames zone as the last man back, Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan stumbled and fell. Applying pressure, Coyotes forward Ray Whitney picked up the loose puck and went in alone on Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Whitney faked a backhander and pulled the puck to his forehand, fooling Kiprusoff and sliding the pick into a virtually empty net at 10:27 of the third period. The goal, which gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead, was Whitney's 17th of the season, matching his total from last season.
► Click here to see the KEY MOMENT.
Photo by Getty Images.
• Center Antoine Vermette, whom the Coyotes acquired in a trade with Columbus on Wednesday, played 17:12 and won nine of 15 faceoffs in his Phoenix debut. Vermette, wearing sweater No. 50, twice hit the post with a shot. “He had some good chances," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "You can tell he’s a real good teammate. He fit in well and had good energy on the bench.”
• Center Daymond Langkow, who played 392 regular-season games for the Flames before being dealt to the Coyotes last summer, ended a 12-game goal-scoring drought by notching his eighth of the season at 1:32 of the second period.
• Goalie Mike Smith upped his career-high winning streak to nine games.
• The Coyotes have beaten the Flames six games in a row - including three times in a row in Calgary.
• Defenseman Michael Stone, who played for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL from 2006-10, played at the Scotiabank Saddledome for the first time as an NHL player. Stone logged 9:52 of ice time and took two shots on goal.
• Forward Taylor Pyatt returned to the lineup after missing three games because of an upper-body injury.
• Defenseman Michal Rozsival played a team-high 27:47, took three shots on goal and blocked two shots.
• The Coyotes played minus injured forwards Kyle Chipchura (upper-body) and Gilbert Brule (upper-body), and injured defensemen Rostislav Klesla (upper-body) and David Schlemko (lower-body). The Coyotes also played minus defenseman Derek Morris, who has taken a leave of absence because of a family illness.
• Before the game, the Coyotes assigned forward Matt Watkins to their American Hockey League affiliate. Click here to read more.
• The Coyotes' next game is Saturday vs. the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 2 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"We’re all smiles and happy right now because we keep finding ways to win. It might not be pretty and it might not be the way coaches have it drawn up at the beginning, but we’ve found ways to come back."
"That's two games in a row we haven't had a very good start, and the resiliency of the team right now is impressive... Our group works hard right through til the end."
"We had a tough break on the third goal (against). We were able to hang in there and find a way to get an important point. It’s a big point. We’re not happy or satisfied. We feel that we should have gotten both tonight."