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Special teams key Flames' win over Coyotes

The SportsXchange

CALGARY, Alberta -- If Kari Ramo keeps this up, the Calgary Flames will have to name him the No. 1 goaltender.

If the Flames special teams keep playing like they did against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night at the Saddledome, it will be easier nights for any Flames netminder.

Ramo made 29 saves and defenseman Mark Giordano scored a goal and added an assist in his return to the lineup as the Flames beat the Coyotes 4-1.

The Flames managed to kill all five Coyotes power-play chances -- including two penalties taken by Ramo himself in the third period -- and the home side added a short-handed goal for a great night on special teams.

Right winger Lee Stempniak scored on a great two-on-one feed from center Matt Stajan for the Flames' fourth goal, which basically put the game on ice just 2:44 into the third, and it was Calgary's league-leading sixth while down a man.

Ramo made his second straight start after only seeing action in two of the previous 12 outings. With his second straight victory, Ramo is making a case he should be the main starter over Reto Berra instead of this being a tandem.

"It was a while that I didn't see a game, but I have to go out there every chance I get and not think about the situation," Ramo said. "I just try to enjoy it."

The Coyotes (16-8-4) looked to be a little road weary after beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 Tuesday night up the highway in Alberta, and they couldn't capitalize after defenseman Keith Yandle opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

The Flames took control in the second period, but the rally really started in the final seconds of the opening frame.

With the clocking winding down, Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie took a pass in the Coyotes zone, hesitated as defender David Schlemko went down to block, then fired through the crouching blue-liner. The puck bounced off Schlemko and past Coyotes goaltender Thomas Greiss with just eight second left in the period.

"We got unlucky with the goal at the end of the first period," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We gave them momentum and couldn't get it back. We had a lot of pucks around the net and lots of opportunities, but that's the way it goes sometimes. The harder we tried, it seemed the hard it became for us to find the back of the net."

The Flames took a 2-1 lead early in the second and never looked back. Center Mikael Backlund took a cross-ice pass from left winger Jiri Hudler and the Swede's fluttering one-timer went over Greiss' right shoulder to the top of the cage.

Calgary built a 3-1 edge at 11:46 of the second period thanks to a point shot from captain Giordano, who returned to action after missing 18 games with a broken ankle. The power-play goal was the captain's third of the season in just nine games, and he was a bit fortunate his shot deflected off Coyotes center Antoine Vermette's stick.

Giordano had 20:28 of ice time after being out since Oct. 21.

"It felt great. It was a good all-around game," Giordano said. "We didn't have the start we wanted. It was a big goal at the end of the first. For me personally, to get back in it was a great feeling.

"Scoring always feels great. That one was a bit lucky going off the stick. It was a great feeling. For the rest of the game, we played a solid game. I was really happy with how we played in the third. We had some big penalty kills. It was nice to see Stajan and Stempy set that one up and give us a nice cushion."

The Coyotes got on the board first thanks to an impressive shift in which they had the Flames flailing around in their own zone for about a minute of action.

Eventually, Coyotes right winger Shane Doan knocked Flames defenseman Chris Butler to the ground on an attempted body-check before wheeling around the net to find Yandle pinching in from the point.

Yandle ripped a wrist shot -- that deflected off Butler -- past Ramo for his third goal of the season. The Coyotes came into the night with a 12-1-1 record when scoring the first goal, while the Flames were a meagre 4-10-3 when their opponent scored first.

But Ramo proved too tough to beat after the opening goal. His biggest save came in the second period when he flashed the glove hand to rob Vermette of a sure goal.

For the fourth time in five outings, the Flames didn't allow a power-play goal, and they've killed off 20 of 21 opponent opportunities during that stretch.

"I thought we played pretty well," Yandle said. "They got a couple of lucky bounces. They played hard though. We got down and got out of structure. We took some risks. They put in a good effort. We didn't get the bounces but hopefully we get them the next one."

NOTES: Flames D Mark Giordano returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with a broken ankle. The Flames went 5-11-2 without their first-year captain in the lineup. Giordano scored his third goal of the season in the second period. ... Before the game, the Flames honored the military with their eighth annual Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night. ... The Coyotes held the Flames off the shot clock until 11:09 was gone in the first period. ... Flames G Kari Ramo earned a second straight start by backstopping the team to a 2-1 victory Saturday night in Los Angeles. It was Ramo's first back-to-back starts since Oct. 26 and Oct. 30. ... By allowing a tying goal with eight seconds left in the first period, the Coyotes didn't get a chance to improve on their 10-0-0 record when leading after one frame. ... Coyotes G Thomas Greiss made his fifth start of the season but second in four games. He picked up a win Nov. 27 against the Minnesota Wild.
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