The Phoenix Coyotes nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. After launching out to a 4-0 lead, the Coyotes allowed three Edmonton goals and played on their heels for the better part of the third period before finally getting the victory.
Throughout January the Coyotes have not gotten enough offensive production from their star players, but tonight was completely different. Mikkel Boedker opened the scoring at 14:17 thanks to a dazzling outlet pass from Antoine Vermette. Boedker's shot rang off the far post and bounced in behind Ilya Bryzgalov. Three minutes later, Radim Vrbata scored his first goal since December 27th against the Sharks on a power play tally. He was perfectly positioned in the slot to handle the centering pass from Martin Hanzal.
Already up 2-0, the blueline decided to get in on the fun. Derek Morris fired an absolute howitzer from the far point to make the score 3-0. A Mike Ribeiro tip-in at 3:00 in the second would round out the scoring for the Desert Dogs. And that's when things started going badly.
The Oilers, who had actually been putting up a considerable amount of shots, started getting pucks in the net. Matt Hendricks scored his first goal as an Edmonton Oiler on a Ryan Jones centering pass. The score would remain 4-1 until the third period, when Coyotes trade darling David Perron scored a nifty backhander at 1:50. Edmonton would pile on the pressure after that and hem Phoenix in their own end.
A bad clearing attempt by the Coyotes allowed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to bring the Oilers to within one. Despite Edmonton's pressure, Phoenix was good when it counted. Mike Smith made the saves he needed to make. More importantly, the Coyotes did not take any penalties down the stretch to give Edmonton free offensive time. The game would end 4-3, too close for comfort for most Coyotes fans.
Our Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star - Zbynek Michalek - Michalek's contributions don't tend to register on the scoreboard, but Z had four critical blocked shots that likely saved goals.
2nd Star - Mike Smith - Smitty made 36 saves on 39 shots for a .923 SV%. He also had a secondary assist to bring his point total on the season to three.
1st Star - Mike Ribeiro - Ribeiro scored what became the game winner and helped set up the Vrbata power play goal. That's what he's here to do.
- The Edmonton perspective, courtesy of The Copper & Blue.
- Radim Vrbata went thirteen consecutive games without a goal until tonight's game.
- Former Phoenix faceoff specialist Boyd Gordon had an uncharacteristically off night in the faceoff dot, winning only 48% of his draws, including a crucial late game defensive draw.
- Gordon's replacement, Jeff Halpern, went 8 for 11 in the faceoff circle.
- Matt Hendricks, recently acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Devan Dubnyk, was the only Oiler to take penalties in this game. His first was an pretty blatant elbow on Tim Kennedy which may warrant a call from the Department of Player Safety.
- Martin Hanzal had an assist in his return to the lineup. He missed the previous two games with a lower body injury.
Phoenix wraps up its traditional three game Western Canada swing when they travel to Vancouver on Sunday. That game will start at 6 PM Arizona time.