LeNeveu, who was promoted from San Antonio early on Thursday, found out at the morning skate that he would be starting against Edmonton that night. He responded by making 32 saves to lead the Coyotes to a 6-2 victory over the Oilers. Phoenix ended a four-game losing streak and climbed out of the Western Conference cellar.
“They call guys up for a reason,” LeNeveu said. “I didn’t any pressure on myself. Why put any pressure on yourself when you don’t need to? I just came in with all the confidence, tried to play my game and give the team a chance to win. That’s all they can ask.”
The 23-year-old LeNeveu earned his fourth career victory – and another start Saturday night against the New York Rangers.
“David’s young and he played a good game,” coach Wayne Gretzky said. “Why not ride him?”
Gretzky quickly added that veteran Curtis Joseph is still his No. 1 goalie. “One game doesn’t make a career,” Gretzky said. “I’m happy for David, but Curtis is our guy.”
LeNeveu was recalled to replace Mike Morrison, who was assigned to San Antonio after clearing waivers. Morrison had a 6.14 goals-against average in four games.
LeNeveu, who played 15 games for Phoenix last season, performed well. But he had plenty of help as the Coyotes turned in their best performance since a season-opening 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.
Georges Laraque, who left Edmonton to sign a free-agent deal with Phoenix last summer, scored his first goal of the season. Zbynek Michalek, Ladislav Nagy, Oleg Saprykin, Owen Nolan and Donald MacLean also scored for Phoenix.
Fernando Pisani scored his first goal of the season and Petr Sykora added a goal for Edmonton, which lost for the second time in two nights.
“We haven’t caught a lot of breaks both ways, but still, on a night like that you’ve got to be better,” Edmonton centre Shawn Horcoff said. “You’ve got to be better in front of your goalies. We’re letting them drive the net, and it’s just a combination of things right now that are resulting in us losing games.”
The Coyotes were saying the same thing after being swept in back-to-back games at Edmonton and Calgary Monday and Tuesday. Phoenix had lost its last four games by a combined score of 19-3.
“That was long overdue,” said Nolan, who is tied for the team lead with three goals. “We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, but hopefully this will start us up again.”
Playing in front of a sparse crowd that was announced at 13,021, the Coyotes came out with a sense of desperation. With Edmonton’s Marty Reasoner serving a hooking penalty, the Coyotes went ahead 1-0 on Michalek’s second goal of the season at 5:08 of the first period.
It took only 1:21 for the Oilers to tie it at 1-1. After LeNeveu stopped winger Ales Hemsky on a breakaway, Pisani beat LeNeveu with a wrist shot over the right shoulder. It was the first point in 10 games for Pisani, who was rewarded with a US$10 million, four-year contract after scoring 14 goals in 24 playoff games last spring.
But the Coyotes quickly responded on goals by Nagy and Saprykin to take a 3-1 lead after one period.
Laraque’s goal made it 4-1 at 2:56 of the second period. Laraque, not known as a scorer, created his own chance by shouldering Reasoner away from the puck, stickhandling along the goal line and backhanding a shot over Markkanen.
Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish replaced Markkanen with Dwayne Roloson, who gave up six goals in a 6-2 loss at Anaheim Wednesday night.
“I am much more disappointed in our game tonight than I was in Anaheim,” MacTavish said. “When we get behind, we need to learn to start from a foundation and play good, responsible hockey. Keep them at the three goals they were at instead of letting them get to six.”
Notes: Coyotes captain RW Shane Doan (back) was scratched. … Sykora leads the NHL with three game-winning goals. … Markkanen had allowed one goal in his only previous start, a 2-1 victory over Vancouver Oct. 17. … Valley resident Nils Lofgren sang the national anthem. The Coyotes are 6-0 when Lofgren sings the anthem. … This was the first game in newly renamed Jobing.com Arena. Gretzky called it “Jobingwinning.com Arena.”