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 savior 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
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
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
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 favor, thanks to Ribeiro.