Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler (24), of the Czech Republic, tries to get the puck past Phoenix Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek (4), of the Czech Republic, as he defends the goal in front of a diving Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, left, during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday Oct. 22, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GLENDALE, Ariz. - When Mike Ribeiro first arrived in Phoenix, he wasn't sure how he would fit in, on the ice and in the locker room. Having the added honus of being the scoring saviour on a team that's needed one for a decade didn't help much.
Once Ribeiro found his comfort level with his new teammates and role on his new team, the points started flowing—and haven't stopped since.
Ribeiro scored two goals for the second straight game and extended his points streak to seven games, lifting the Coyotes to a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.
"It took a while for me to get comfortable with the guys and for them to know me and, I guess to like me," Ribeiro said. "So now that we did that, I'm comfortable and it's fun to come to work."
Ribeiro had a quiet start in the desert after signing a four-year, $22 million contract, failing to register a point his first three games.
Realizing he had been thinking too much instead of reacting, Ribeiro shifted his game into a new, freewheeling gear, starting with an assist in Phoenix's 3-0 win over Detroit on Oct. 10 that kick-started what had been an awful start to a five-game road trip.
Ribeiro hasn't stopped scoring since, notching two goals against the Red Wings in Phoenix's comeback victory on Saturday and two more against Calgary, including the game-winner just a few minutes after the Flames tied it in the third period.
Rob Klinkhammer added an empty-net goal for Phoenix, which has earned 12 of a possible 14 points in its past seven games. The Coyotes, with 14 points (6-2-2), are off to their best start since opening the 2000-01 season 7-1-2.
"He likes to make a difference in games and he's doing that for us right now," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes needed Ribeiro's big night after a couple of defensive miscues allowed the Flames back into a game they had been dominated in for most of the first two periods.
Sluggish after facing Los Angeles the night before, Calgary fell behind 2-0 in the second period after Radim Vrbata's 200th career goal and Ribeiro's first of the night.
The Flames finally found some life late in the second, using a turnover to set up Lee Stempniak's goal in the second period and another that led to Joe Colborne's breakaway goal early in the third.
Calgary couldn't sustain it, though, unable to get anything past Mike Smith the rest of the third period to lose for the third time during a five-game road trip that ends at Dallas on Thursday.
Jiri Hudler had an assist to extend his season-opening points streak to nine games for the Flames.
"The first period, we didn't skate very well, I felt our energy level was not very good, we were not throwing enough pucks at the net," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "The second period, we got going. I really liked our last 40 minutes. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game."
Phoenix wanted to jump on the Flames early after they played the night before and did just that, scoring on a power play when Vrbata gathered a pass from Keith Yandle and wristed it past Joey MacDonald from the right circle for his fifth goal of the season.
Phoenix was at its defensive best early on as well, blocking shots and pushing the Flames toward the boards while holding them to three shots in the first period.
Ribeiro made it 2-0 in the second period, raising his stick waist high to deflect a shot by Mikkel Boedker past MacDonald.
"They took it to us in the first period," Stempniak said. "I didn't think we played very well, lost a lot of puck battles.
Calgary finally showed some life late in the second period, with Stempniak scoring late on a rebound and Colborne tying it early in the third.
Ribeiro came through again less than three minutes later.
Set up to the right of MacDonald, he ripped a one-timer from a tough angle on another crossing pass from Yandle, putting the Coyotes up 3-2 with his fifth of the season.
The Flames tried to generate a final push, but Smith made some big saves and Klinkhammer sealed Phoenix's victory with his fourth of the season.
"It wasn't a masterpiece, let's put it that way," Tippett said. "It was a quirky game that could have gone a lot of different ways."
It ended up in Phoenix's favour, thanks to Ribeiro.
NOTES: Both teams played without their captains. Phoenix's Shane Doan was out with a lower-body injury and Calgary's Mark Giordano was scratched after leaving during pregame warm-ups. ... The Coyotes recalled F Brandon Yip before the game and sent F Tim Kennedy to Portland of the AHL before the game. Yip started in place of Doan. ... Hudler has 12 points in nine games this season.
AdvertisementThis Week - Subscribe Now