GLENDALE, ARIZ. - If the belief their season hung in the balance was there before the game, it might have been even more intense during a critical timeout in the second period.
After staking themselves a three-goal lead in the first period, the Flames fell back on their heels quickly in the second stanza and saw their lead over the Phoenix Coyotes dwindle to a single goal.
Head coach Brent Sutter called for a pause in the action to settle his players.
They responded. It just took a little time and a couple of key saves from MVP netminder Miikka Kiprusoff to make it happen.
“I just told the guys, let’s just calm down. Let’s get back to playing like we can. Let’s go after this,” Sutter said after the 4-2 victory that snapped a six-game losing streak to the Coyotes.
“I thought it calmed the guys down a little bit. Not much had to be said. I just reassured them we’re fine.”
If those words didn’t do it, Kiprusoff’s spectacular pair of saves on Coyotes sniper Ray Whitney did.
First he stopped the veteran on a breakaway, getting enough of the puck aimed at the five-hole to knock it up and out of harm’s way.
Sliding across the crease a little later in the period as Whitney teed up a one-timer, Kiprusoff then got his mask on the puck to steer it away.
“We were able to keep our feet under us. Kipper made some really big stops, some huge saves,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who added an empty netter to secure the win after Michael Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen started things off in the first period.
“The No. 1 thing we wanted to bring was compete, and I thought all the guys competed really hard tonight.
“Even when we got up three, it wasn’t like were were thinking, ‘We got this.’”
It might have seemed that way.
Raffi Torres scored on a deflection on the powerplay just 1:27 into the second period. Michal Rozsival netted his first of the year a little more than two minutes later.
Then came the timeout.
“You feel the momentum shift,” said Matt Stajan, who played a solid game for the Flames and set up Iginla’s empty netter.
“When a team gets two quick goals like that, you definitely feel it. Not only in the crowd or you guys up top, but on the ice you can sense it. We had to regroup there a little bit.
“We took the game back over. We could have had a bunch of goals in the third there. It was a little adversity for us, but we bounced back. At the end of the day, we got the job done. If we play the way we did in the third all the time, we’re gonna win our fair share of games here and be in the fight to get to the playoffs.”
Jumping back up to within two points of the idle eigth-place Dallas Stars, the Flames hope to snap another even longer losing streak Friday night in Anaheim, where the Ducks are winners of the last 14 on home ice against the Flames.
“It was a big step in the right direction,” Iginla said of the effort against the Coyotes.
“We just wanted to start with one, now we want to go get two. We know we’ve got another bad record to break.”
They’ll have to keep plugging away at the details, getting pucks deep, grinding away on the cycle and being opportunistic in the offensive zone to make it happen.
“It’s a big win. It’s a start of a new month where we know we have to win a lot of hockey games,” Stajan said.
“Now we’ve got to go into Anaheim, another building we’ve had trouble in, and get two more points.”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane