CALGARY — Flames captain Mark Giordano celebrated his 800th NHL game in style on Sunday.
Giordano had two goals and an assist and a tied a career-best with a plus-five to lead Calgary to a 7-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
“Whenever you’re playing in a milestone game, you want to win it, first and foremost,” said Flames coach Bill Peters. “When you win it and you’re plus-five with three points, that’s something you can tell your kids and they’re going to look it up and hey, it wasn’t a lie. Good for him.”
The 35-year-old has 47 points (9 goals, 38 assists) in 45 games, putting him second among NHL defencemen and five points behind leader Brent Burns. His plus-36 leads the league, four better than his defence partner, TJ Brodie, who was also a plus-five.
“It felt good,” said Giordano. “Big win for the team. It felt like we had good puck control, good movement, especially in the first and third.”
Calgary surged in front on goals 68 seconds apart late in the first period.
At 16:51, Giordano opened the scoring from a sharp angle, picking the top corner on the short side.
“Just a real smart, cagey guy, he shows some patience, letting the screen develop and then all of a sudden, it’s on and off his stick at the right time,” said Peters.
Sixty-eight seconds later, Sean Monahan made it 2-0 when he was left alone in the slot and converted Johnny Gaudreau’s centring pass.
Giordano’s second was part of a barrage of three goals in less than three minutes early in the third period that blew the game open.
“One of the best captains I’ve played for, for sure, over my career,” said Flames goaltender Mike Smith, who had 22 stops. “The way he competes on the ice, the way he practises, is just the epitome of being a true professional.
“Unbelievable guy off the ice to be around, too. I’ve been here a short time but it doesn’t take you long to figure out what kind of person he is and what kind of leader he is. Eight hundred games in this league playing the way he does says a lot about the person he is and the player he is. He deserves it.”
Relegated to back-up duty lately behind the red-hot David Rittich, Smith improved to 13-9-1.
It was a good outing for Smith, who had struggled early in recent games. With the it scoreless in the first, he slid across the crease to make an acrobatic stop on Derek Stepan.
“As a goalie, that feels good when you can make some saves for your team and they can go down and capitalize on our chances. Nice to keep the winning streak going and get back in there and feel good,” said Smith.
Adin Hill went the distance for the Coyotes, finishing with 19 stops. He fell to 7-5-0.
Matthew Tkachuk finished with a pair of goals and Sam Bennett also scored for Calgary (30-13-4). The Flames have won five straight and are 8-1-1 in their last 10. They are second overall and lead the Pacific Division by three points over the San Jose Sharks.
Gaudreau also had an assist and extended his point streak to eight games (8 goals, 10 assists). With 69 points on the season, he moved into second place in league scoring, six back of Nikita Kucherov.
Jordan Oesterle scored the lone goal for Arizona (20-22-3) as the Coyotes’ three-game winning streak came to an end.
Rick Tocchet was not happy with his club’s performance.
“We’re playing a first-place team and we can’t have four or five guys on the outside, looking in,” said the Coyotes coach. “We had four guys that weren’t good tonight and Calgary smelt it after the first period.”
Oesterle’s goal came on the power play at 19:44 of the second, giving Arizona a short-lived glimmer of hope.
“We had some good chances to take the lead, but it felt like they were scoring on every chance they got,” said Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Notes: Calgary defenceman Travis Hamonic (family illness) was a late scratch. He was replaced by Dalton Prout… Arizona’s Conor Garland had his four-game goal-scoring streak snapped… The Flames improve to 22-3-0 when they score first… Calgary has a league-best plus-38 goal differential in the third period.