|PHX||2||0||1||(0 - 0)||3|
|EDM||0||0||1||(0 - 0)||1|
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."
|Photo by Getty Images|
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.
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson (8) Slapshot - ASST: Martin Hanzal (20)|
1 - 0 PHX
|Ray Whitney (18) Wrist shot - ASST: Radim Vrbata (23), Martin Hanzal (21)|
2 - 0 PHX
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (14) Tip-in - ASST: Ales Hemsky (22), Taylor Hall (24)|
2 - 1 PHX
|Shane Doan (20) Snap shot - ASST: Keith Yandle (27), Adrian Aucoin (5)|
3 - 1 PHX
|Paul Bissonnette Fighting (maj) against Darcy Hordichuk|
|Darcy Hordichuk Fighting (maj) against Paul Bissonnette|
|Ben Eager Tripping against Mike Smith|
|Chris Summers Hooking against Taylor Hall|