EDMONTON – Just when it looked like the Edmonton Oilers were headed for another disappointing performance at Rexall Place, a third-period power surge salvaged a much-needed home victory.
Sheldon Souray and Andrew Cogliano scored third-period power play goals as the Oilers headed into the holiday break on a high note, moving back over the .500 mark with a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.
Zack Stortini and Marc Pouliot also scored for the Oilers (15-14-3) who snapped a three-game winless streak and returned to even at home with a 5-5-3 record at Rexall Place.
Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish was relieved to see his team come back after allowing Phoenix to come back and tie the game in the second after an early 2-0 Edmonton lead.
“That game ended a whole lot better than it could have,” he said. “We lost the momentum in that game in the second. We didn’t have a great second but we rallied in the third and were pretty decent there.”
The Oilers were just happy to head into the holidays without another albatross around their necks.
“When you lose these kind of games, especially with the situation we are in, it can kind of fester when you have a few days off,” Souray said of almost letting the contest slip away. “Not that we are out of the woods yet by any means, but to have a couple days to get away on a win and not have to think about it, that’s good timing for us.”
MacTavish said he wanted the team to feel like they are coming back from the holidays with a fresh start to the season.
“I don’t want them thinking about hockey,” he said. “I want them to get away from the game and enjoy a couple days with their families. Maybe get on a bike too though.
“We need a break. It has been a pretty tumultuous start and I am encouraging them all to come back with a fresh start approach.”
Martin Hanzal and Enver Lisin replied for Phoenix (16-14-4) which had a three-game winning streak stopped, as well as a stretch of six games with at least a point where the Coyotes had gone 4-0-2.
“We weren’t good enough in the first,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “Obviously they jumped on us and because of that it put us in the hole and that’s where we lost the game, unfortunately.”
The third-period power play opportunities didn’t help either.
“You give them three 5-on-3s and it’s going to hurt you and obviously tonight it did,” Doan added.
Edmonton started off the scoring five minutes in thanks to a strong shift from their bruiser Stortini. After absolutely levelling Todd Fedoruk on an open-ice hit, Stortini was then able to contribute offensively with his first goal of the season, depositing the puck in after a prolonged scramble in front of the Phoenix net.
“We scored a goal tonight and I don’t think we made one pass on the whole shift,” laughed converted Oilers forward Jason Strudwick who manhandled Coyote Daniel Carcillo in a second period fight.
The Oilers took a two-goal lead less than two minutes later as Pouliot took a feed from Cogliano on a give-and-go and wired a hot past the outstretched glove of Coyotes starter Mikael Tellqvist.
Phoenix made it a one-goal game twelve minutes into the middle frame with a delayed penalty coming their way as Hanzal was able to slide a puck past Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson as his stick was being chopped in half by Souray.
Sustained Phoenix pressure paid off in a tied game with 2:23 remaining as Ed Jovanovski undressed Steve Staios on the power play and fed the puck to Lisin in the slot and he blasted the puck past Roloson to make it 2-2 heading into the third. The Coyotes outshot Edmonton 17-5 in the second period.
The Oilers caught a break early in the third when Coyote Viktor Tikhonov took a double minor for a high stick into the face of Erik Cole to give Edmonton a two-man advantage and they converted to regain the lead just 45 seconds into the period when Souray unleashed a bullet from the point that blew past Tellqvist.
Edmontno put the game away with another two-man advantage with just 2:14 to play as Ales Hemsky got his second assist of the game by making a perfect pass to Cogliano on the doorstep for the easy tap in.
Phoenix plays in Colorado on Tuesday while Edmonton is off until Dec. 26, when they travel to Vancouver.
Notes: Oilers forward Robert Nilsson is the latest player to land in head coach Craig MacTavish’s doghouse, a healthy scratch for the game after questions about his competitiveness. Liam Reddox came in to take his place in the lineup Phoenix was without the services of forward Peter Mueller, out because of a sore leg Edmonton won all four meetings between the two teams last season, including two in Edmonton in which they gave up a combined 13 goals. It was only the Oilers fifth win at home in 13 tries this season. Only Tampa Bay has fewer home victories.