SUN Hockey Pool

Phaneuf bites Coyotes

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dion Phaneuf used his fists to fire the first volley.

Then the Calgary Flames defenceman used his stick for the knockout in a much needed 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

If any one of the Flames wasn't clear on the importance of last night's clash in the desert, Phaneuf made sure their alarm clocks were ringing by dropping the gloves with Coyotes captain Shane Doan a mere 87 seconds into the NHL clash.

It was a charged bout, with both parties landing haymakers.

"It was a very good fight," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "Doan's a big guy for their team and Dion for ours.

"You could see they knew the importance of the game and so did we. When you get an emotional start like that, it's a boost."

Still, Phaneuf's biggest impact came in the most important manner for the Flames. He scored twice, first grabbing the clutch game winner exactly 30 seconds after the Coyotes had tied the game early in the second period, then the insurance goal early in the third frame.

"It was a playoff atmosphere game," said Phaneuf, who's netted six goals in the last seven games.

"We knew how big of a game it was and I'm sure they were saying the same thing over there -- all you had to do was look at the standings.

"There was a little bit extra emotion at the start."

Emotion that came to the surface early with his scrap.

"Just got in a little battle in the corner, and kinda looked at each other and asked each other," Phaneuf said of the tilt that took place at centre ice.

"I don't know who asked first but we both said OK. He's a competitive guy and not a guy who'll shy from a battle."

That battle level never wavered through to the final buzzer before the crowd of 15,208 at the Jobing.com Arena. That's what happens when the stretch drive is on.

"Every guy knew the importance and every guy showed up," said Iginla, who also scored twice. "We were responsible, we were backchecking, you could see guys diving (to block shots).

"It was a desperate game for us and it feels really good because it's been a while since each period we were there."

This was the first game of the four so far during this five-game road trek that the Flames have been at their best from start to finish.

"We try to extract that every night and it's hard to find every night," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "We had things going on a more consistent basis in December and January, but fell away a bit.

"Hopefully we can rekindle that consistency."

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 24 shots in recording the win.

The Flames netminder caught a good break when Steven Reinprecht was ruled to have interfered with him before scoring what would have made it a 3-2 game with three minutes remaining.

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky didn't agree with the disallowed goal, but was more disappointed about his team being outclassed.

"They played like a playoff team and we played like it was an exhibition game in September," Gretzky said.

"They beat us to every loose puck, they took hits to make plays and we played with no grit whatsoever. It was evident the entire night."

Derek Morris scored the lone goal for the Coyotes (31-26-4) on a night Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves.

Calgary concludes its five-game tour of the Pacific Division tonight when they face the Stars in Dallas.


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