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Flames gain ground in Pacific Division with a 3-2 win over Coyotes


CALGARY — The Calgary Flames recovered from an early hiccup to earn a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

The Coyotes scored on their first shot of the game just over a minute after the opening faceoff, but the Flames quickly regained the lead on their division rival and held it until the final buzzer.

"We've got to be comfortable in these types of games," Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk said. "This is a playoff-type game, four-pointer.

"This is what it's going to be coming down the stretch. Happy with our effort, especially in the third."

Tkachuk assisted on all three Flames goals scored by Johnny Gaudreau, T.J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund.

Calgary starter Cam Talbot made 32 saves for the win in his third straight start and 300th of his career.

The Flames (36-26-7) improved to 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Tkachuk has nine points in his last six games.

Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist and Carl Soderberg also scored for Arizona (33-28-8).

Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots in the loss.

Calgary moved to three points back of the Vegas Golden Knights, who top the Pacific Division, and one point behind the idle Edmonton Oilers in second spot.

The Flames are at home Sunday to the Knights, who were 4-0 losers to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

"Sunday's going to be the biggest one of the year by far, so we're looking forward to it," Tkachuk said. 

The Coyotes, who face the Jets on Monday, remained among five teams within two points of each other jockeying for wild-card berths in the Western Conference.

"We knew that could either be a three-point lead or a five-point lead over these guys and obviously we wanted the second part of that," Talbot said.

"It felt like a playoff atmosphere. You tell that every little play mattered and guys were going to the wall tonight."

Up 3-2, Calgary held Arizona to just five shots in the third period although Coyotes centre Nick Schmaltz whiffed on a golden chance to tie the game.

He got the puck behind Talbot, but missed the open net with just over three minutes left in regulation.

Talbot then lost his helmet in a collision with Coyotes forward Conor Garland trying to poke check the puck away from him.

"Just a tough bounce off the boards. Of course it kicks off the net and goes straight onto his stick," Talbot explained. "Pure desperation. I feel fine now. The win helps obviously."

Hall scored at 1:11 of the first period, but Calgary quickly countered with Gaudreau and Brodie goals in a 41-second span starting at 5:54.

Backlund made it 3-1 for the Flames early in the second period. Soderberg pulled the visitors within a goal at 10:57.

Arizona pressed for the equalizer with Kuemper out of the net for an extra attacker, but couldn't produce it.

"We lose games by one. We're right there. We have to find a way to produce something 6-on-5," Hall said.

"We didn't do a good enough job pressuring their D, making it hard on them. It seemed like they had lots of room to make passes up to the forwards all night long. From there, they made plays off the rush.

"I think that's what really bit us and didn't allow us to really come back in the third."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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