GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes watched in disbelief as a tiebreaking goal was waved off because one of their players had been shoved into the goalie.
For a team that has been reeling, it could have been another here-we-go-again moment.
Instead, the Coyotes rallied around the missed call to prevent their longest losing streak under coach Dave Tippett.
Radim Vrbata scored less than a minute after linemate Martin Hanzal had the goal waved off in the second period and Phoenix added two more in the third, ending a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
“We needed to find a way to win that game,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “They get the goal called back and there’s situations where it could have gone the other way and the way things have being going, it’s been going the other way a little bit. But we found a way to win”
The Coyotes had been in a funk, losing the previous three games by a combined score of 13-4.
Despite playing the night before, Phoenix had the extra jump against the Oilers, closing down inside the blue line and getting a goal from Lauri Korpikoski in the first period.
Edmonton tied it in the second on the first of Taylor Hall’s two goals, but the Coyotes thought they had the lead back when Hanzal swiped a shot in with just over a minute left in the second period.
It was waved off after Ray Whitney knocked over Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk—thanks to a shove from behind by Edmonton defenceman Corey Potter.
Instead of going into a shell, Phoenix kept pushing and the same line scored just a few seconds later, with Vrbata firing a wrist shot past Dubnyk with 37 seconds left. Doan followed Hall’s second goal with his eighth of the season and Oliver Ekman-Larsson put it away with a tough-angle shot less than three minutes later to prevent what could have been a devastating four-game losing streak.
“Losing three straight, that’s enough,” Vrbata said. “We don’t want to keep going this way so this was a good game for us.”
The Oilers should have been the team with the energy; they hadn’t played since Saturday and the Coyotes were at Anaheim the night before.
It just didn’t work out that way. Edmonton came out flat in the first period, never fully took the momentum back and was outshot 42-20 to lose for the seventh time in nine games.
“I don’t think we were an engaged 18 skaters as we had to be,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said.
The Coyotes, after a solid start to the season, had left Tippett a little irritated with their start to December.
Lacklustre for stretches over the past seven games, Phoenix had won just twice and had its losing streak pushed three games after a 4-1 road setback against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.
Part of Phoenix’s troubles have stemmed from defence. The Coyotes had allowed 13 goals during their losing streak and Tippett tried to shake things up against the Oilers by making top-line defenceman Derek Morris, who is minus-9 on the season, a healthy scratch.
The Coyotes seemed to get the message.
Even after playing a road game the night before, Phoenix had the energy edge early against the Oilers, creating numerous good scoring chances while squeezing the zone down on defence.
The Coyotes got a hard-working goal from Korpikoski late in the period when the young winger scooped up a loose puck and slipped it Dubnyk as Edmonton defenceman Eric Belanger rode him to the ice.
“We needed that goal,” Tippett said.
Phoenix limited the Oilers to six shots in the period and got a couple of breaks late when Jordan Eberle missed on an open wraparound and Shawn Horcoff couldn’t gather the puck with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith well out of the crease.
The Coyotes kept up the pressure early in the second, but Dubnyk made a string of spectacular saves to keep the lead at a goal. Hall tied it late in the period, squeezing the puck just past the tip of Smith’s stick and between his legs on a power play.
After Phoenix went back up on Vrbata’s late goal in the second period, Edmonton picked up the pressure to open the third and tied it midway through on Hall’s ninth goal, a wrister on a power play after a nifty pass from Ryan Smyth.
The momentum didn’t last.
Doan scored on a deke and a wrister after Mikkel Boedker did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone, then Ekman-Larsson put it away on a shot that somehow eked past Dubnyk from near the side of the goal.
“When we needed to come out and ride the momentum after a goal, it just seemed like they pushed more than we wanted to go,” Oilers forward Ryan Jones said. “It’s just something that we have to fix in the locker room.”
Notes: Coyotes D Rostislav Klesla missed his sixth straight game because of a lower-body injury … Potter returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with a lower-body injury. … Whitney, who had three assists, was honoured before the game for nothing his 600th career assist on Dec. 8. He was joined on the ice by his parents, wife and three kids.