CALGARY — Kevin Connauton believes he’s playing the best hockey of his career.
Since the all-star break Connauton has 10 goals, tying him with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman for most by a defenceman since Jan. 28. They’ve come in a span of 30 games after finding the back of the net just once in the season’s first 42 games.
"I’m playing a lot more confident. Using my skating, using my shot," said the 28-year-old. "Had a rough year last year with injuries and then sitting out. So the beginning of the year, I was still trying to get back to my game, but I think I’m back there now."
Arizona struck first at 3:48 of the first period when Panik deflected Connauton’s point shot past rookie goaltender Jon Gillies for his sixth goal in the last 10 games.
Connauton made it 2-0 at 16:39 on a nifty play at the blue line. After a fake shot that sent Curtis Lazar spinning to the ice, he wristed a shot inside the goal post.
"Initially I wanted to take that first shot, but their forward dropped down and took a knee. I wanted to change the angle and the other guys did a good job screening in front and luckily it found the corner," said the Edmonton native.
Connauton is in the final season of a two-year deal and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"I’ve had some ups and downs, but you grow from those things. When you get pushed back a little bit, it motivates you and you keep driving forward and I’m excited to see what happens this summer," he said.
Christian Fischer and Dylan Strome also scored for Arizona (29-40-11), which has won three games in a row.
Nick Shore with his first goal as a Flame scored for Calgary (36-34-10). The injury-riddled Flames have lost eight of their last nine.
"I don’t think the guys are not putting the effort in, it’s just not coming easy for us right now," said veteran forward Tanner Glass.
Seven of Calgary’s 43 shots came from rookie Spencer Foo.
"He was our best player," praised coach Glen Gulutzan. "He is certainly a noticeable player out there."
Playing in his second NHL game, the 23-year-old played on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.
"It’s kind of tough when you’re putting up that many shots and you can’t quite get a bounce," said Foo. "Obviously this group is a little bit frustrated right now trying to score goals."
The teams exchanged goals early in the second period. Fischer was credited with a goal at 2:18 when a rebound off Gillies’ pad caromed in off the skate of rookie Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson.
Shore put Calgary on the scoreboard at 4:32, snapping Lazar’s rebound past Antti Raanta for his first goal since being acquired by the Flames in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.
It was the only puck to elude Raanta, who had 42 saves in picking up his sixth consecutive victory. His save percentage is .965 over those half-dozen games.
He improves to 21-16-6 on the season.
"Probably the biggest thing was for me, I needed to show everyone I can play at this level every night," said Raanta. "My contract is expiring, so you kind of got that in the back of your head, like ‘hey, you haven’t done anything yet this year and now it’s time to show."’
Gillies, who had 17 stops, falls to 2-4-1.
Calgary’s power play woes continued. The Flames are 0 for 30 in the last 12 games and 1 for 48 over the last 17 games.
Notes: Arizona D Jeff Chychrun (lower body) left the game late in the first period and did not return… It’s the longest the Flames have gone without power-play goal since a 13-game streak from Nov. 9 to Dec. 5, 1997… Arizona improves to 18-1-1 when giving up two or fewer goals.