EDMONTON -- The Coyotes began the month of February in a funk. They're ending it on a roll.
Mike Smith stopped 21 shots as Phoenix beat the Edmonton Oilers, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon at Rexall Place to improve to 10-0-1 this month and move into first place in the Pacific Division standings. The Coyotes (32-21-9) have 73 points, two more than second-place San Jose, which has two games in hand.
Phoenix looked to be falling out of the playoff race when it ended January with a 4-1 home loss to Anaheim. But with Smith winning 10 in a row, they haven't lost in regulation since.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ray Whitney scored in the first period for the Coyotes, who've won five games in a row. After Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' goal early in the third period cut Phoenix's lead to one, Shane Doan snapped home his 20th goal of the season with 2:28 left to seal the win.
Despite the surge, Whitney said his team can't get overconfident.
"We're happy with what we have done," Whitney said. "We've played well at times and competed hard most of the time. But we have to be careful not to get too excited or overconfident because of how things have gone."
Smith was as good as he had to be, but he got plenty of help from his teammates, who limited the speedy Oilers' time and space.
"There are teams that are in the playoffs year after year for a reason, and this is one of them," said Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney, who was back behind the bench after missing five games with a concussion sustained when he was hit in the head by a puck during practice.
Phoenix got a break to open the scoring. Ekman-Larsson's shot was headed wide but hit the leg of Edmonton defenseman Jeff Petry and deflected past Devan Dubnyk at 5:43 of the first period.
The Coyotes got their second goal with 1:14 left in the period when Whitney scored his 18th goal of the season (see KEY MOMENT below).
"Giving up the first two makes it a tough hill to climb against a team like that," Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. "We made it really hard on ourselves."
The strong start was a change for the Coyotes, who overcame 3-0 and 2-0 deficits to win their previous two games.
"We wanted to come out and play a better first period," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said with a laugh. "We wanted to be even or better after the first, and we were able to get a lead."
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After a scoreless second period, Ales Hemsky, who signed a two-year contract extension on Friday, helped the Oilers (24-31-6) get on the board 8:28 into the third when he threw a puck in front that Nugent-Hopkins deflected past Smith for his 14th goal of the season. Nugent-Hopkins returned to the lineup after missing 20 of the Oilers' last 22 games due to shoulder injuries.
But Doan fired a laser from inside the top of the left circle past Dubnyk's glove for the clincher with 2:28 to play.
"I thought we defended well," Tippett said. "They're a dangerous team on the rush, and we wanted to make sure we weren't giving them easy opportunities, that anything they got they had to work for. We didn't give up a lot, and we got enough to win."
The Coyotes headed home after sweeping the two Alberta teams to host Vancouver on Tuesday.
"It's been a pretty good month," Tippett deadpanned. "Hopefully we can end it right."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Leading 1-0 late in the first period, Coyotes winger Ray Whitney blazed past defenseman Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney - no relation - and then slid the puck through goalie Devan Dubnyk's legs.
It was Whitney's 12th point in his last seven games against the Oilers, the team he served as stickboy for as a kid.
► Click here to see the KEY MOMENT.
• Goalie Mike Smith upped his winning streak to 10 games. Smith has made 276 saves and allowed just 15 goals during the streak.
• Captain Shane Doan scored his 20th goal of the season at 17:32 of the third period. Doan has scored 20 or more goals in 11 NHL seasons.
• The Coyotes are 9-2-0 vs. the Oilers under Head Coach Dave Tippett.
• With 20 games to go, winger Ray Whitney already has matched his point total from last season (57).
• The Coyotes played minus injured forwards Kyle Chipchura (upper-body) and Gilbert Brule (upper-body), and injured defensemen Rostislav Klesla (upper-body) and David Schlemko (lower-body). The Coyotes also played minus defenseman Derek Morris, who has taken a leave of absence because of a family illness.
• Center Antoine Vermette, playing his second game for the Coyotes, won 10 of 15 faceoffs. He nearly scored his first goal with Phoenix in the first period but the goal was disallowed after a video review. What follows is the official ruling from the NHL:
"At 6:16 of the first period in the Coyotes/Oilers game, the Toronto situation room initiated a review after Lauri Korpikoski's shot was stopped but Antoine Vermette poked the rebound into the net. The referee informed the video room that he had been in the act of blowing the whistle after the save on the original shot by Korpikoski and prior to the Vermette shot. The referee's call on the ice stands. No Goal Phoenix."
• The Coyotes' next game is Tuesday vs. the Vancouver Canucks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"We talked about making February a big month for us and it has been. We've taken advantage of being at home a little bit more and having some time to rest. We know March is going to be a tough grind."
"We've played well, but if you look at our schedule, we have beaten five teams that aren't in the playoffs this month and caught a couple teams that were struggling. We have to keep our feet grounded."
"I thought we did a better job in the second and third periods. They're a disciplined team that's tough to play against, especially when you are trailing."