There wasn't a dramatic come from behind feel to the game tonight, but the Phoenix Coyotes will probably be perfectly happy with that, as they stormed into Rexall Place and continued their winning ways in February. The Coyotes have a 10-0-1 record for the month and look to round out the impressive run on Tuesday against the team that has given them their only blemish since the calendar turned over.
Mike Smith continued his strong play with his 10th consecutive victory despite the boos raining down from the crowd after a first period play where Ben Eager was called for goaltender interference and the Canadian crowd felt Smithy went down a bit easy. His shutout bid was halted midway through the third on a nice deflection by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in his first game back from a shoulder injury. For the Coyotes, two first period goals set the stage for this game, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ray Whitney getting on the board for the Coyotes. Shane Doan added a third period goal to extend the lead back to two goals and seal this victory for the Desert Dogs!
Bullet Point Notes From Game:
- As suspected, Mike Smith and Devan Dubnyk are your starting goalies.
- Coyotes won't be coming all the way back tonight as they strike first with a goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a knucklepuck from the blue line that hits Jordan Eberle and perhaps another Oilers player on the way in. Martin Hanzal gets the lone assist. 1-0 Coyotes!
- And it's almost 2-0 early as Antoine Vermette pokes one through Dubnyk's pads after Lauri Korpikoski attempts a wrap-around, but the refs had blown the whistle as the puck was crossing the line, so the goal is waived off. NHL's official explanation here.
- With just over 7 minutes left, Paul Bissonnette drops them with Darcy Hordichuk - nothing too special, a few exchanges but no knockout or anything.
- Ben Eager with a semi slew-foot on Mike Smith as he came from behind the net, and the Coyotes will get the first power play late in the first.
Radim Vrbata launches Ray Whitney into the zone and he dangles around multiple Oilers before slipping it through Dubnyk's wickets. Hanzal gets his second assist of the night. 2-0 Coyotes!
- Through one period, Edmonton leads in shots 8-6, in hits 12-3 (really?!?) and in the faceoff circle 9-8; Coyotes lead in blocked shots 4-3.
- Coyotes get called for a hooking penalty as Chris Summers makes a good play breaking up a 2-on-1, but then gets his stick caught up with Taylor Hall - Edmonton to the pp. Coyotes kill the penalty with relative ease.
- A pretty quiet second period that moves right along - Edmonton had a decent push back, but Phoenix matched them and responded well defensively throughout.
- For the second period, shots were even at 7, Coyotes out hit Edmonton 8-5 and led in the faceoff dot 9-8; Edmonton blocks 10 shots to the Coyotes' 3.
- With 11:30 minutes remaining, the Oilers break up Mike Smith's shut out bid as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deflects a Ales Hemsky shot for the goal. 2-1 Coyotes.
- With tons of pressure being applied by Edmonton, Shane Doan leads a rush up the ice and fires a shot off the cross bar and in. Keith Yandle and Adrian Aucoin get the assists. 3-1 Coyotes!
- Net empty, one minute to go and the Oilers have taken their time out - Mike Smith is eyeing the empty net.
- And it's over, 3-1 victory for the Coyotes! Coyotes and Oilers both have 7 shots for the third period; Oilers end game leading in shots 22-20 and blocked shots 16-10; Coyotes lead in hits 20-19 and faceoff wins 29-24.
Five For Winning
1. Score early, score often. While the last two games have shown that the Coyotes are more than capable of making up a first period deficit, it's not the way you want to have to play the game and I'm sure Coach Tippett would like to see more from the boys through the first 20 minutes today. They scored very early, and almost had two and didn't trail at all in the game.
2. Stay out of the penalty box. The Oilers have scored a remarkable 29% of their overall goals while on the power play (thanks for that tidbit Matt McConnell), 1st in the NHL. They also have the 4th ranked pp unit in the league. Only a single minor penalty on the Coyotes and they killed it off with relative ease.
3. Watch the wings. Speedy wingers Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky can create havoc for the blueline and the Coyotes need to be aware of their rushes up the ice to avoid odd man situations. Occasionally the Oilers were able to bring a rush up the ends, but the Coyotes did a good job of shutting down most of the opportunities.
4. Secondary scoring. We say it often, but who is going to step up if Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney manage to not find the back of the net. Shane Doan and Daymond Langkow got key goals in Calgary and it would be nice to mention a few other names we haven't heard in a while. OEL and Doan get goals, and Vermette almost gets one, but it's still the top line being out there for 2 of the 3 goals scored.
5. Mike Smith, Mike Smith, Mike Smith. His last two games haven't been his sharpest of the run, but other than the first period, he has been spectacular. Let's see if Smith can shut things down for a full 60 tonight. Smitty looked as sharp as he ever did and really didn't have much of a shot on the one goal he allowed; 21 saves en route to the victory.
Our Three Best Players On the Ice:
1. Ray Whitney - scored another pretty goal that turned out to be the game winner.
2. Martin Hanzal - two assists and complete domination in his own zone.
3. Mike Smith - he wasn't tested too much, but he made a few very nice saves including a late robbery on Ales Hemsky.
Comment of the Afternoon
Let's hope the Coyotes can stay there for a long, long time.
Depending on the day of the week, the Vancouver Canucks are either the best or second best team in the Western Conference. They will make the trip to Glendale on Tuesday night after playing Dallas on the road Sunday afternoon. The Canucks are almost as hot as the Coyotes, going 8-1-1 through their past 10 games and serving the Coyotes a shootout loss during that span. This game could be a preview of a playoff match-up depending on how things shake out. After Vancouver, it's a rematch with the Calgary Flames on Thursday night before Columbus arrives on Saturday night to round out a short three-game homestand.