GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s not the time of season for the sentimental stuff.
Sure, it was special for Calgary Flames netminder Mike Smith to step back into the spotlight at Gila River Arena, where he starred for six seasons for the Arizona Coyotes before being traded north this past summer.
The return trip that Smith was focused on, though, is another shot at the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it ain’t looking good.
Smith delivered 25 saves Monday but the Coyotes spoiled his homecoming, with old pal Oliver Ekman-Larsson picking the top shelf with 3:41 remaining to lift the hosts to a 5-2 win that included two late empty-netters.
After this latest loss, their fourth in a five-game stretch, the Flames are now six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
That’s a near-impossible climb with only eight games to go.
“We all understand where we’re at (in the standings). We get it,” Smith said prior to Monday’s matchup against his former team. “We need to go out there and put it all on the ice. At the end of the day, if everything that you’ve got is not good enough, then we can take that. But if we’re leaving stuff on the ice or making mistakes that we shouldn’t be making or . . .
“We just need everyone to throw it all out there,” Smith concluded. “And see what happens.”
On this night, it was not good enough.
Flames defenceman Dougie Hamilton provided a goal and an assist and alternate captain Sean Monahan also scored, while Smith did his part with a pair of breakaway denials.
Alas, the crew from Calgary couldn’t avoid a second straight bummer on this two-games-in-two-nights trip to the desert.
One day earlier, they were thumped by the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena, failing to put any rubber past Marc-Andre Fleury in a 4-0 shutout loss.
On Monday, they were dumped by the cellar-dwelling Coyotes.
After a scoreless opening stanza, Richard Panik put the first ink on Monday’s scoresheet early in the second, blasting a one-timer after a sweet feed by rookie Clayton Keller. Smith managed to get a piece of the puck with his out-stretched glove, but not enough for what would have been a highlight-reel save.
Hamilton soon evened the score and claimed the solo lead as the NHL’s top marksman among blueliners, boosting his total to 16 goals so far this season. The right-handed rearguard snuck in from his station at the point and sizzled a wrister just inside the post.
With an assist on Hamilton’s tally, waiver-claim Chris Stewart registered his first point in Flames silks.
Hamilton nearly notched another with about five minutes left in the middle frame but couldn’t connect with his swing at a bouncing rebound during a chaotic scramble. No problem, because the puck pin-balled to Monahan in the slot and he fired into an empty net.
That lead lasted all of 123 seconds before Micheal Ferland’s giveaway in his own zone, with Max Domi intercepting his backhand breakout pass and capitalizing with a blocker-side bury.
With his game-winning goal, Ekman-Larsson became just the sixth Swedish defenceman to score 100 in NHL action. He made it 101 with an empty-netter, while Domi added one of his own to cap a three-point performance.
On Monday’s out-of-town scoreboard, the Los Angeles Kings notched the game-tying tally with 46.5 seconds remaining in regulation in Minnesota and then completed the comeback with a 4-3 overtime triumph.
Thanks to that result, combined with their loss to the Desert Dogs, the Flames are now six points back of both wildcard berths and the third-place perch in the Pacific Division.
After backstopping the Coyotes to the Western Conference final in 2012, Smith missed the post-season in his past five springs with the Desert Dogs.
After a change of scenery, he’s going to be an outsider again.
The Flames will return home for Wednesday’s date with the Anaheim Ducks at the Saddledome (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet 360/Sportsnet 960 The Fan). It should be an extra-special night for fourth-line centre Matt Stajan, who is slated to skate in his 1,000th game.
Ice chips: Flames D TJ Brodie missed Monday’s meeting with an upper-body injury, the result of a hit Sunday in Las Vegas . . . With Brodie out, Flames D Rasmus Andersson was recalled from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat and logged his third big-league appearance.