Coyotes earn key 3-1 road win over Oilers, gain ground on playoff spot

EDMONTON – A rare road win has given the Phoenix Coyotes a clearer path to the playoffs.

David Moss and Boyd Gordon each had a goal and an assist as the Coyotes stayed in the playoff picture with a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

Antoine Vermette also scored for the Coyotes (18-16-6) who have gone 5-1-2 in their last eight games and now sit in sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference, just one point back of the idle Detroit Red Wings.

“It’s tight in the standings and there aren’t too many games left in the season,” Vermette said. “We are well aware of the situation we are in and how important every single point is right now. It was a big win for us.”

With the win, the Coyotes improved to just 5-9-5 on the road, something captain Shane Doan says will have to look even better by the end of the month if they want to extend their season.

“We haven’t been as strong as we would like to be on the road,” he said. “We have five games left away from home and we need to answer some questions. We need to stay above .500 on the road the rest of the way.”

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith stopped 29 shots for the win.

“He was great,” Vermette said. “He has been playing well lately and has been a big factor for our team. He stood tall at the key moments tonight to give our team the chance to win.”

Nail Yakupov responded for the Oilers (16-17-6), who are sliding out of contention, having lost four in a row and sitting four points below the playoff cut in 12th.

“It’s a very disappointing loss,” said Edmonton head coach Ralph Krueger. “We needed to have more offence in the first period being at home here and what was on the line. But it wasn’t that way. It’s a tough loss to swallow for all of us.”

Krueger said there is no sugar-coating just how desperate his team’s playoff plight is at the moment.

“We all know there are no points to give any more,” he said. “We aren’t going to give up on this. We’re not going to speak that language or allow it in the room. Now we are in a position where we are going to need some help from other teams and some things are going to have to happen. We just have to take care of what we can still take care of.”

Phoenix got a gift goal to start the second period, scoring just 37 seconds in as Gordon sent what should have been a harmless shot on net from the corner that would have gone wide had it not hit Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk and deflected in.

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“My stick got caught in a bad spot,” Dubnyk said. “I was prepared for the shot but my stick got caught on the corner of my pad and when I squeezed and moved over it didn’t go.”

Dubnyk was directly responsible for giving the Coyotes a 2-0 lead nine minutes into the second period as well.

The Oilers goalie went out to play a puck behind the net and got tangled up before sending the puck straight out in front to the stick of Vermette, who put home his ninth of the year into the empty cage.

It was Yakupov’s turn for an egregious Oilers give-away with three minutes left in the second as he coughed up the puck at his own blue-line, giving Moss a short-handed breakaway. Moss had Dubnyk beat with a nifty deke, but ended up hitting the post.

The shots favoured Phoenix 22-15 after 40 minutes.

Edmonton finally got onto the scoreboard eight minutes into the third period as a Ryan Smyth shot caromed off of the leg of Phoenix defender Michael Stone and Yakupov was able to redeem himself for his earlier gaffe by batting in his 10th of the year to make it 2-1.

Phoenix put the game away with a power-play goal from Moss with nine seconds left in regulation time.

There was no scoring in the relatively uneventful first period.

Phoenix won the battle of the shot clock with 10 on Dubnyk, but Coyotes goalie Smith likely had to make the toughest stop on the eight shots he faced, stoning Jordan Eberle on a second effort in tight with eight minutes to play in the first.

The Coyotes travel to Calgary to face the Flames and cap off a three-game trip on Friday. The Oilers host the Flames on Saturday.

NOTES: It was the third and final meeting between the two teams this season, with Edmonton capturing the first two. Yakupov’s overtime goal gave Edmonton a 2-1 win in Phoenix in January, and they made it two in a row over Phoenix with a 3-2 shootout win on a goal by Sam Gagner in February… Edmonton came into the game having still lost 10 of their previous 13 to the Coyotes… After a five-point night against Calgary on April third, Oilers forward Taylor Hall has now been held pointless for his team’s last four games… Oilers forward Ales Hemsky returned to the lineup after missing his team’s last game with a foot injury. Ryan Jones came out to make room… Phoenix defenceman Zbynek Michalek returned to the lineup from an ankle injury. Forward Lauri Korpikoski remained day-to-day with an upper body injury.