EDMONTON – It’s not going to erase finishing last in the NHL last year, but the Edmonton Oilers are having an excellent pre-season.
Dustin Penner scored the shootout winner as the Oilers remained perfect in pre-season play, getting past the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Wednesday.
Ales Hemsky also scored in the shootout while Sam Gagner, Alexandre Giroux and Colin McDonald scored in regulation for the Oilers, who are now 4-0-0 in exhibition play.
“They dressed a lot of their players,” Gagner said. “We played OK for the most part. We were trying to do too much.”
Oilers head coach Tom Renney felt Phoenix was his team’s toughest test to date.
“We played a little bit better of a lineup in Phoenix tonight,” he said. “They pushed the pace and checked hard. They were in our grill more than some of the other teams. They were closer to the finished product than we have seen.
“It was good for us to get tested and pushed and at times not play very well. It’s important to test the resolve of your group.”
Lee Stempniak, Kyle Turris and Scottie Upshall replied for the Coyotes, who dropped to 4-1-1.
It was the final exhibition game for the Coyotes, who will now travel to Europe where they will start the regular season.
“There are things to improve but we accomplished a lot this pre-season,” Stempniak said. “We did a lot of things right, just too many penalties. We’re a work in progress still but I don’t see any reason not to be confident we will be successful this season. This Europe trip in exciting.”
Edmonton seemed poised to win in regulation with a late 3-2 lead in the third period, but the Coyotes sent the game to extra time with just 1:33 left. Upshall poked the puck past goaltender Martin Gerber while sliding in on net after being hauled down to tie the game 3-3.
Phoenix jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals just barely over a minute apart.
The Coyotes scored with seven minutes remaining in the opening frame as Stempniak banked a shot off the skate of Oiler Liam Reddox into the Edmonton net. Soon after it was a two-goal game as Turris picked the puck out of a battle in front and beat Edmonton starter Jeff Deslauriers with a backhand shot for his second goal of the pre-season.
Edmonton got on the board two minutes later on the power play as Ladislav Smid sent Gagner in on a breakaway and he was able to slip the puck past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Oilers tied the game three minutes into the second when Reddox made a nice pass to give Giroux a clear path to the net. The prolific American Hockey League scorer went high on Bryzgalov for the goal.
Gerber went into the Edmonton net midway through the period and almost allowed the Coyotes to take the lead late in the second. Gerber got caught challenging for a puck and leaving a wide open net, but Smid batted the puck to safety in mid-air as it was on its way in.
Edmonton took the lead seven minutes into the third on an innocent looking shot. Alex Plante took a wrister from the blue-line off a face-off and it bounced off of McDonald and into the Phoenix net.
The Oilers next play host to the Calgary Flames on Friday. The Coyotes depart for Europe this weekend where they will next play an exhibition game in Riga, Latvia before moving on to Prague in the Czech Republic to start the regular season against the Boston Bruins.
Notes: It was the last chance for many of those in Coyotes camp to impress the staff as the team plans on cutting five of the 28 players on the team’s current trip to Alberta before travelling to Prague. Prospects Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov, all of whom sat out Tuesday’s 3-1 pre-season loss to Calgary, were in the lineup for a final audition. . . Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney didn’t attend practice on Tuesday after taking a puck in the face on Sunday night. Tests showed there was nothing broken but he still sat out against Phoenix, bothered by a headache.