Smith sharp as Flames take lead in Pacific
Starting goalie shakes recent slump, Neal scores 500th point in 6-1 victory over Arizona
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pick a storyline, any storyline.
There were many to choose from in the Calgary Flames’ 6-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
Let’s start with the fact the visitors shook off Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights to take sole possession of the Pacific Division with a 14-9-1 record. The Flames also have scored 19 goals in their past four games despite that shutout.
Against a struggling Coyotes squad, losers of four straight, they scored three short-handed goals with one in the first period (Noah Hanifin) and two in the third (TJ Brodie and Mark Jankowski) on the same power play. It was the first time since March 9, 1991, the Flames have scored a trio of shorties, when Theoren Fleury was credited for all of them.
Hanifin also netted his first two goals since joining the Flames from the Carolina Hurricanes in the off-season with the other coming on a man advantage in the second period.
James Neal’s memorable marker — his 500th career point — was a big relief after going pointless in the previous nine games. On Sunday, he had three shots on net in 15:13 of ice time.
No. 500 is impressive. “Five-hundred points, that’s a big number, a great career to this point and there’s more to come,” Flames head coach Bill Peters said.
Then there was goalie Mike Smith, who turned aside 28 of 29 shots to seal his first victory since Nov. 1. The win comes as a huge relief after dropping his last three starts and backing up David Rittich in the four games before Sunday.
“I thought it was a good effort all the way around,” Peters said. "I thought we bounced back good from the first game on this trip. I thought Smitty was real excellent in net, very calm and composed. I thought we got contributions throughout the lineup. We obviously ended up with three short-handed goals, but the penalty killing itself was good.
“A good way to end the trip.” Sean Monahan opened the scoring at 7:27, netting his 13th of the season, while Hanifin’s short-handed marker came at the end of the first while Austin Czarnik was off for hooking. Hanifin built on the Flames’ lead on a second-period power play, while Jankowski added the Flames’ fourth. Brodie and Jankowski rounded out the scoring in the third.
Hanifin became the third Flames defenceman to score a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game. Mark Giordano did so on Dec. 23, 2006, versus Vancouver, while Al MacInnis did it on March 26, 1988, also against Vancouver.
Smith was en route to his second shutout of the season when Flames defender Travis Hamonic coughed up the puck to the Coyotes’ leading scorer Clayton Keller, who made no mistake.
Hamonic let out his frustrations by breaking his stick over the crossbar.
“Yeah, I threw a nice pizza there at the end,” Hamonic said. "(Smith) played well. Unfortunately I made a stupid play at the end there. I didn’t see the guy, obviously.”
Early in the second period, an errant clearing attempt from Brad Richardson flew toward the bench and struck Peters directly on his left jaw. The impact startled the patrons at Gila River Arena and had everyone worried when the 52-year-old bench boss dropped to the ground. Flames trainer Kent Kobelka immediately turned his attention to Peters.
After a few minutes, Peters was helped off the bench with a towel draped over his face while assistant coach Martin Gelinas was given the lineup card and took over the bench.
Peters was given eight stitches and came back on the bench with five minutes left in the second period.
“I think it’s going to hurt more (Monday)," he said with a chuckle. “There’s not a lot of room out there and you have to be paying attention ... got stitched up and back to work.”
It wasn’t the first time Peters has been clipped with a puck.
“It happened a few years ago (with Carolina). He got hit with the puck (and) Hammer (Travis Hamonic) actually shot it,” Hanifin said with a chuckle. “We were playing the Islanders and it hit him. But it’s always scary when you see your coach get hit in the head like that. I’m glad he’s all right.” Peters shrugged it off. “I hope it’s the last time, but probably not,” he said.
If you were wondering why the Flames were wearing their home red jerseys for both road games, you weren’t alone.
It was the Golden Knights’ fault. They wanted to wear their road white sweaters for a home game and asked the Flames if they’d co-operate. So to save them from bringing both sets of jerseys, general manager Brad Treliving asked if the Coyotes would mind wearing their road black jerseys Sunday.