CALGARY — Snake-bitten since scoring in the Calgary Flames season opener, Paul Byron finally snapped a 16-game goalless streak on Thursday.
Playing in career game No. 99, Byron’s first NHL two-goal game helped the Flames to a 5-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
“It felt good. It was a lot of work coming, a lot of time shooting pucks in practice with the coaching staff and stuff like that,” said Byron. “The chances have been coming and I’ve been extremely happy with that. It was just a matter of time, I thought, before they started going in.”
Since beating Ryan Miller for Calgary’s first goal of the season back on Oct. 8, Byron has had at least a half-dozen breakaways that he has failed to convert.
“We just don’t want him to get any more breakaways,” said Mark Giordano, with a chuckle. “He gets breakaways, he doesn’t bury them. But 2-on-1’s, 3-on-2’s, he’s money. We’ll just let him pull up or something next time he gets a break.”
Playing right wing on a line with rookie centre Josh Jooris and struggling left-winger Sven Baertschi, the trio had a superb night.
After the first went in to open the scoring, Byron’s second restored the Flames lead at 2-1. Byron said he felt different as soon as that first one went in.
“It certainly changes your confidence going forward in the game. It gets a little mojo in your game and it feels like the rest of the game, pucks seem to follow your stick a little bit. Hopefully, I can keep that going.”
Both goals were set up directly on nice plays by Baertschi, who collected his first two points of the season.
“Sven was skating. I felt he was feeling it. He held the puck, he was making plays, he gave us a great offensive game and that’s who he is. He’s a playmaker,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and David Jones — with his third goal in as many games — also scored for Calgary (10-6-2). The Flames, who have won five of their last seven, were kicking off a five-game homestand that will continue Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.
Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette and Joe Vitale scored for Arizona (6-9-1), which has lost three straight. The Coyotes will continue their three-game road swing through Western Canada with a game Friday night in Vancouver.
“Way too many opportunities for them and gave up too many chances and we have to be better,” said Doan. “We had opportunities to win the game but we made dumb mental mistakes.”
After scoring twice to tie it 3-3, Arizona fell behind once again on a goal by Giordano, which came on a neat set-up from defence partner TJ Brodie.
Brodie faked a shot at the point to give him space, then moved in and after freezing goaltender Mike Smith, slid the puck down low to Giordano, who wired a one-timer just under the crossbar to put Calgary ahead for good.
“As soon as he got the puck, I knew exactly what he was going to do. He’s got that great fake. He took the puck to the middle of the ice to draw the guy even more over. I was just wide open and I was just trying to hit the net from there to be honest,” said Giordano.
It was the sixth goal of the season for the Flames captain, who is on an eight-game points streak (five goals, 13 assists).
Coming after a 4-1 setback to Carolina on Monday, the victory improves Calgary’s record to 7-0-1 after a loss.
“It’s been a focus of ours. The good teams don’t lose two, three, four games in a row, they cut those losing streaks off right away,” said Giordano. “I thought we had a tough game in Carolina but the bounce-back was good, the guys were moving tonight. I thought we created a lot.
Calgary got some insurance at 12:23 of the third when Jones’ flung the puck toward the front of the net and it banked in off of the leg of Connor Murphy.
Jones was questionable to play due to an illness that kept him from participating in the game-day skate.
“Calgary made plays to get to the front of the net on our turnovers. When we don’t have the puck enough to make those plays, it’s hard to get in front of their net,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “There are plays that have to get made, saves that have to get done, we just have to play better as a group.”
Starting for the seventh time in the last eight games, Hiller overcame an awful goal against him from a bad angle that tied it 3-3, to finish the night with 20 stops and improve to 8-4-1.
It has been a shaky start to the season for Smith, who had 20 saves to see his record fall to 4-9-0.