CALGARY — Sean Monahan seems to know exactly what to do when the game is on the line.
Monahan scored his eighth game-winning goal Tuesday as the Calgary Flames picked up two important points with a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. They also climbed to within one win of clinching a playoff spot.
Getting the puck at his own blue-line, Monahan carried it up the ice into the Coyotes zone and after hitting the brakes sharply in the slot, the 20-year-old whipped a shot past Mike Smith for his 31st goal of the season.
“I got a chance to go there and Johnny (Gaudreau) drove the net hard to create room and I tried to do whatever I could to get a shot,” said Monahan. “Fortunately enough, I put it in.”
Monahan is tied for third in the NHL in game-winners this season, behind Alex Ovechkin (11) and Max Pacioretty (10).
“He has such a good feel for the game,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley. “Whether it’s offensively or defensively, he’s always on the job. He showed great patience. He let the d-man go down and walked right in.”
The goal came less than two minutes after Arizona capitalized on a mistake by Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller to tie it. Out of his net to play the puck near the corner, Hiller lost it to Kyle Chipchura, who set up Craig Cunningham for an empty net.
“Those things happen but in the end, you stick together as a team,” Hiller said. “There’s always somebody on this team to find a way to bail the other guys out.”
The Flames can clinch their first trip to the post-season in six years on Thursday night when they play Los Angeles. Calgary would eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions with a regulation time win. With two games left for each team, the Flames are two points up on the Kings and own the tie-breaker.
“We all know what’s at stake,” Hartley said. “There’s a great team coming in, Stanley Cup champs in our building.
“We’re going to go out there, we’re going to play our own game and we’re on a mission. We know what we need to do.”
Thanks to the Kings loss in Edmonton on Tuesday, Calgary has two chances to get one win. They finish the season in Winnipeg.
“Those are going to be two of the hardest points for us to get on the season and we know that,” said veteran Flames centre Matt Stajan. “We have to get ourselves ready. That’s a Game 7 for us on Thursday and hopefully we can seal the deal here on home ice.”
David Jones and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary (44-29-7), which swept the five-game season series by a combined score of 20-8.
B.J. Crombeen scored the other goal for the Coyotes (24-48-8).
Despite an 18-7 edge in shots in the first period, Calgary emerged with only a 1-0 lead. The Coyotes played a better second period and eventually tied it when Crombeen scored at 17:09 on a shot that deflected off Dennis Wideman’s jersey and fluttered past Hiller.
The weird goal was only Crombeen’s third of the season in 56 games.
“To have a start like that, we put ourselves in a bad position,” said ex-Flames forward David Moss. “We did some better things in the second and third but we gave them a couple too many chances.”
Calgary regained the lead 1:13 into the third when Jones went hard to the net and hammered in a rebound of a Michael Ferland shot.
The Flames lost Lance Bouma (upper body) late in the second period after he appeared to get shaken up blocking a rising slapshot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Arizona captain Shane Doan (lower body) also did not play in the third period.