Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman was just happy to be back in the Flames lineup Friday night.
Brad Richardson scored twice as the Arizona Coyotes beat the Flames 4-1 in Wideman’s return after an independent arbitrator reduced his 20-game suspension for physically abusing an official down to 10 games earlier in the day.
"I’m just excited to get back and get playing and help the Flames win some games here," said Wideman, who expressed his appreciation to the fans, Flames staff and NHLPA for standing by him. "I know that this was pretty chaotic the last couple weeks and a bit of a distraction and I just want to thank them for all the support."
On Friday morning, Neutral Discipline Arbitrator James Oldham announced Wideman’s suspension would be reduced, ruling that the Calgary defenceman did not intend to injure linesman Don Henderson. That paved the way for him to return to the lineup. He had already sat out 19 games.
"First and foremost, I just want to wish Donnie Henderson a speedy recovery. I realize that he’s still working through his injuries and trying to make his way back and I hope to see him back out on the ice as soon as possible," said Wideman. "As far as the ruling goes, I’m happy it was reduced to 10 games. I still maintain that it was completely accidental and I had no intent on hitting Donnie at all."
Captain Mark Giordano said it’s good to have the veteran back on the blue line.
"It was frustrating but you can’t go back. At the end of the day, right now, just happy as a teammate and a friend that it’s over with for him and we can move on from that," he said.
Tied 1-1 headed to the third and with Arizona on a power play, Antoine Vermette snuck out of the corner with an unaware Wideman nearby, and from the side of the net, steered in a perfect cross-ice pass from Martin Hanzal.
"Our power play needed to be generating a little more, a little better execution," said Vermette. "On that play, our entry was pretty good, we executed a few tight plays and eventually we used the width of the ice. It was a great play by Marty Hanzal to see me backdoor."
Richardson scored an insurance goal at 14:18 and added an empty netter with 1:41 remaining.
The reeling Coyotes won for just the second time in their last 11 (2-8-1) outings and snapped their road winless streak at 10 games.
"We know the situation we’re in, but we’re trying to push, trying to become a better team. There’s a lot of young guys here that are kind of learning their way. These are big games for all of us," said Richardson.
Boyd Gordon also scored for Arizona (29-32-7). Shane Doan had two assists to give him 41 points, his 14th season with over 40 points.
Mikael Backlund scored for Calgary (28-35-5). The Flames are 1-1-1 halfway through a six-game homestand.
"It’s one of those games, especially against them, it’s always tight-checking and you know you’re not going to get a ton of chances and you have to capitalize on them," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "We hit a post, we had a couple chances that went wide off rebounds where (Louis) Domingue was beaten. We were not sharp enough around the other team’s net."
Calgary took a 1-0 lead on Backlund’s short-handed goal 21 seconds into the second period, but Gordon tied it for Arizona on a short-handed goal of his own at 15:01.
Domingue made 24 save to improve to 14-15-5. Joni Ortio had 22 saves for Calgary to see his record fall to 2-7-3.
Notes: Wideman partnered with Jakub Nakladal … The Flames were without TJ Brodie (upper body) and Sam Bennett (upper body), who are both day-to-day… Kenny Agostino was called up from Stockton of the AHL.