GLENDALE, Ariz. – Dave Tippett has pushed all the right buttons in his first season as the coach of the once-lowly Phoenix Coyotes.
On Monday night, he switched Matthew Lombardi from centre to right wing. The result was two goals and three assists for a career-high five points from the 27-year-old Canadian in a 6-1 rout of Edmonton. It was the Coyotes’ 36th victory, matching their total for all of last season.
Big deal, Tippett said.
“I wasn’t here last year, so it’s inconsequential to me,” he said. “We’ve got to get a lot more before we get to where we’re going to get this year.”
It was the most one-sided victory of the season for Coyotes, who emerged from bankruptcy owned by the NHL while the league tries to work out a sale. Phoenix has won seven of eight and, with Los Angeles’ loss to Anaheim, has the third-best record in the Western Conference.
“I think we’re proud of what we’ve done so far,” Lombardi said, “but we really don’t want to sit back and look at it like that. We’ve got a long ways to go here. We’re trying to build something here and our goal is to make the playoffs.”
Ed Jovanovski, James Vandermeer, Radim Vrbata and Robert Lang also scored for Phoenix, while Ilya Bryzgalov had 33 saves. Lang also had two assists.
Tippett called it a “sloppy” victory.
“The big difference in the game really was Bryzgalov,” the coach said. “He kept in the game early. Let’s be honest. The score wasn’t indicative of the game. Bryzgalov cleaned up a lot of messes and a couple of players played great for us. Lombardi and Lang were both great for us and sometimes that’s what it takes to win.”
Lombardi had a hand in the first five goals.
“I think there were some lucky bounces there,” he said, “but I don’t play much on the wing here and I got to go out there and play with Shane (Doan) and Robert. It was fun.”
The Oilers, winners of three of their last 26 games, averted a shutout when Dustin Penner scored his 23rd goal with 4:28 to play.
“For the first five minutes, again, we’re not bad,” Edmonton coach Pat Quinn, “and then (Robert) Nilsson turns it over at least five times in our zone of attack.”
Edmonton has been outscored 13-3 in losing on the first three stops of a five-game road trip.
“We had our opportunities, they were there,” the Oilers’ Ethan Moreau said. “We could’ve had four more goals.”
Lombardi’s goals came in a span of 1:41 at the end of the first period and start of the second to put the Coyotes up 3-0. He has 12 goals and 28 assists this season.
Phoenix withstood an early 5-on-3 onslaught and killed three penalties in the first period.
The Coyotes’ first goal came when Jovanovski took a pass from Robert Lang and slammed a one-timer past beleaguered goalie Jeff Deslauriers from the back of the left circle for his 10th goal of the season.
Lombardi’s first score came with 31 seconds left in the first period, when he manoeuvred the puck across the ice in front of the Oilers’ net, then flipped it backhand past the goalie from the left side.
He made it 3-0 1:11 into the second period on a slap shot from in front of the net over Deslauriers’ right shoulder after a nice pass from Vandermeer, who scored Phoenix’s fourth goal on a sizzling slap shot from just in front of the blue line with 14:12 to play in the second.
Vrbata, playing in his 500th career NHL game, got his 19th goal on a breakaway after Lombardi took control of the puck and passed it to him 4:19 into the final period. Lang ended a 20-game goal drought with 8:20 remaining.
NOTES: Two fans in Oilers jerseys sat in the stands with paper bags over their heads. … Doan had two assists for Phoenix, raising his season total to 28, tied with Lombardi for the team lead. … The Coyotes had four goals in their first 19 shots. … The Oilers were blanked at Colorado 3-0 two nights earlier.