Two teams in the Pacific Division, who are both struggling, clashed at the Saddledome in Calgary last night.
The game for the Arizona Coyotes was hopeful in that they were getting two of their starters back in the lineup, who recovered from injuries. Mike Smith returned after missing games since his second game injury. Martin Hanzal also returned after missing five games with a lower body injury.
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To make room for both of these players, the Coyotes sent center Christian Dvorak down to the AHL Tucson Roadrunners, along with goalie Justin Peters.
With 23 players being the limit on the roster, three players were healthy scratches. Connor Murphy, Jakob Chychurn, and Dylan Strome all sat this one out.
Perhaps head coach Dave Tippett just wanted to mix things up because Chychurn has been playing well. Murphy maybe not so much. When Tippett sat Murphy down last season for five games, he came back with intensity and purpose. Strome has been playing the numbers game since the start of the season, and has only appeared in six games thus far this season.
First period deadlock
The Coyotes played a good first period, especially defensively. The Calgary Flames had just one shot on net, which was not much of a shot in the first nine minutes of play. The Flames had played the night before in Minnesota and didn't arrive back home until about 1 a.m.
Yet the Coyotes did not capitalize on that advantage and attempt to wear out their opponent. The Yotes managed eight shots on net, while the Flames had only five.
Second period scare
When your star defenseman goes down hard, you tend to get a bit worried. At the 12:39 mark of the period, Michael Ferland really pounded Oliver Ekman-Larsson into the boards on a clean hit. Ekman-Larsson did not get up and play was halted. He eventually was able to hobble his way to the dressing room for attention.
The physicality of the game intensified from that point and Anthony Duclair also got injured in a scuffle in front of the Flames net, as he was hit from behind. As he exited the ice towards the bench bent over in pain, at 19:42 Tobias Rieder scored the game's first goal.
It was a sweet rebound, with Rieder finding himself all alone in the crease for an easy tally, collecting his fourth goal of the year. Jordan Martinook also collected an assist on the goal.
The period ended with the Yotes wondering if they were going to be short two players from injuries. Ekman-Larsson looked especially doubtful to return to play, by the looks of him as he went to the dressing room.
Third period saw Calgary come back
To the delight of Coyotes' fans both Ekman-Larsson and Duclair were able to recover enough to continue play.
The Flames tied the game at one when at the 6:40 mark of the period Matthew Tkachuk scored on a severe angle shot from near the red line. Mike Smith had the post covered but gave Tkachuk enough room over his left shoulder to snipe a shot into the twine.
Smith was really at the top of his game making a spectacular save in the second period on Michael Frolik. It was targeted for the net, and Smith did the splits and stabbed the puck in his catching glove. That save even drew cheers from the Calgary crowd as they couldn't believe the stop.
The Coyotes only managed six shots on net in the final stanza, and Calgary had 10. As the period drew down, it appeared the Arizona team was settling for one point on the road.
It only took the Flames 49 seconds to get the overtime winner by Frolik. In a play Brad Richardson wishes he had back, he lost the puck on the left boards, and Frolik flew in and snatched up the puck. He got by the defense and lifted a shot in behind Smith to end the game.
No rest for the weary, as the Coyotes swing over to the western Canadian coast to play the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are recovering from a nine game losing streak recently where they were shutout four times. Since then they have won two of four games, and really got spanked by the New York Rangers 7-2 on Tuesday night on home ice.
Should be an interesting game, one the Coyotes really need to win.