Although future-focused Flames fans hoping for a last place finish and a first pick in the NHL Entry Draft might not be happy, Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano sure was.
Giordano scored the winning goal with 24 seconds remaining in overtime Friday as the Calgary Flames snapped a three-game home losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It always feels great to score, no matter what," said Giordano. "But obviously an OT winner, you don't get those too often so it feels great."
Curtis Glencross and Mikael Backlund combined to set up Giordano just inside the blue-line, putting a shot past a screened Mike Smith. Afterwards, Smith just shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't see the puck at all.
"I knew there was under a minute left so you're just trying to get a good quality chance. I don't think it was a great chance but I think there was a lot of time for me and there was a lot of people in front so I just tried to wrist it through," Giordano said.
Calgary pulls even with the reeling Carolina Hurricanes, two points ahead of the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche, who are tied for last in the overall standings.
"As players, we want to win, we're not worried about anything else," said Giordano. "It sucks going home after a game and thinking about all the mistakes you made in a loss."
Tough battle for a playoff spot
By only getting one point, Phoenix finds itself in a three-way tie for ninth in the Western Conference, joined by Dallas and Columbus who both won on Friday. They are two points behind the Detroit Red Wings, who occupy the eighth and final playoff spot.
"Obviously it's good to get one point versus no points," said Keith Yandle, who tied the game with just over five minutes left in the third. "We've got seven games left and we've got to take care of what we can take care of and get two points in as many games as we can."
Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak also scored for Calgary (15-21-4). The Flames, who had lost six of their last seven, snap a three-game losing streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle scored for Phoenix (18-16-7). The Coyotes pick up three out of six points on their three-game road trip.
Although Phoenix outshot Calgary 11-2 in the third period, they hadn't had a dangerous scoring chance until Yandle took a diagonal pass from former Flame Derek Morris and one-timed a rocket from the face-off circle that beat Joey MacDonald over his glove to tie the game 2-2.
Calgary lost veteran left-winger Alex Tanguay 6:42 into the second period when his knee buckled under him while battling for puck in the Coyotes end. He was helped off the ice and was not putting weight on his left leg.
"It doesn't look good, the doctors were around him when I got in [the dressing room]," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "I didn't see it but [assistant coach] Marty Gelinas saw a replay somewhere and said it's ugly."
Phoenix opened the scoring 1:29 into the game, before many in the announced sell-out crowd of 19,289 had settled into their seats. Vermette got his own rebound and from the top of the crease, put his 10th of the season past MacDonald.
But Shane Doan thought his team let up after that fast start.
"We were trying to be a little too lackadaisical, too relaxed with the puck, trying to be cute," said the Coyotes captain. "Scoring a goal early was big but it almost put you back into the kind of relaxed state instead of being aggressive and we can't have that happen."
Calgary tied it 1-1 in the final minute of the first. From behind the net, Mikael Backlund centred the puck and it caromed off the skate of Hudler and behind Smith.
Sven Baertschi is one of many young Flames trying to make an impression for next year.
"For us young guys, there is more pressure now than before," said Baertschi, 20, who had three shots in nearly 17 minutes of ice time. "We have to step up and be really good players out there. If you look into the future , we want to be here for a long time so you want to make their decision for next training camp as easy possible, that there's not going to be talks about Abbotsford. For sure. I'm not going back there. I did it twice this year. My goal is to show that I can play on this level and I want to stay up here."
MacDonald finished with 29 saves and Smith had 22 stops.
Smith made his fourth start in a row after returning from an upper body injury. He entered the night having stopped 93 of 95 shots in his previous three appearances.
"That was obviously big to get a point but not good enough, we need to get two," said Doan. "You have to try and stay within striking distance."