GLENDALE, Ariz. – Headed for a last-place finish in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers are enjoying the chance to play spoilers.
Sam Gagner got the tying goal with 40.4 seconds to play in regulation, then scored the winner in the fourth round of the shootout to lift the Oilers to a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night.
“It’s nice to get rewarded there,” Gagner said of the tying goal. “You have to learn to find ways to win, especially for us down the stretch here.”
It was a tough loss for the Coyotes, who are vying for the last wild-card spot in the West. Phoenix moved one point ahead of ninth-place Dallas, but the Stars have two games in hand.
“It’s not about being so much the spoiler. It’s fun to be a part of a game that means something,” Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. “We’re playing teams that these games are huge for them and we understand. It’s fun and it’s challenging to be in games that really mean something to the other team and I was very interested in how our guys were going to respond.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett compared the loss to an overtime playoff defeat.
“The way we gave up the second goal, that’s demoralizing, but it’s no time to hang your head,” he said.
Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz also scored and Ben Scrivens stopped 24 shots through overtime.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the tying goal for the Coyotes in the second period, and Kyle Chipchura put them ahead with 7:18 left in the third. Thomas Greiss also stopped 24 shots for Phoenix.
Gagner scored on a deflection, backhanding the puck into the net after a shot from behind the goal by teammate Jordan Eberle to force overtime. Eberle had two assists.
Schultz gave his team the early lead in the final minute of the first period. He took a centring pass from Eberle and fired a wrist shot that bounced on the ice and over Greiss’ outstretched glove hand.
The offensive struggles continued for the Coyotes, who have three goals in the past four games, all losses with two overtime shootout defeats.
“First period, I thought out execution was poor. Just couldn’t get a handle on anything. Didn’t pass the puck well,” Tippett said. “Our intentions were good, we just couldn’t get anything done. Right now we don’t have a lot of that in our lineup, the pure execution at high speed.”
Just 13 seconds into the Coyotes’ first power play of the game, Ekman-Larsson held the puck for a bit, then shot high to the far corner and found the net with 5:28 left in the second period to even the score at 1-all.
The goal ended the Coyotes’ scoring drought of more than 139 minutes.
Greiss kept the Oilers from taking another lead, knocking away a quality shot from Eberle with 2:44 to play in the second.
The Coyotes had a chance to add to their lead on a late third-period power play, but Mike Ribeiro’s shot hit the post.
Scrivens went to the bench with a little over a minute to play to give the Oilers an extra attacker, and Edmonton took advantage with the late goal.
“An unfortunate mixup, and we let a point slip away again,” Chipchura said.
The Coyotes lost in a shootout Tuesday to Winnipeg, another non-playoff team.
NOTES: Phoenix G Mike Smith (knee injury) took part in the team’s morning skate on Friday but is still not ready to play. The Coyotes are expected to update his status in the coming days. … C Martin Hanzal suffered a lower-body injury early in the third period and did not return. … RW David Moss returned to action for the Coyotes after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury. … D David Schlemko was a scratch and has not played since March 6 due to a foot injury. … Oilers C Tyler Pitlick missed his third straight game with a knee injury.