The Edmonton Oilers, appearing shell-shocked over the trade of leader Ryan Smyth, lost to the visiting Phoenix Coyotes 3-0 Tuesday night in an NHL game that began with the jersey retirement of former Oiler great Mark Messier. The Oilers, playing in vintage orange and blue jerseys from the team's 1980 Stanley Cup years, mustered just two shots in the first period compared with 10 for the Coyotes. Fans cheered when the announcer sounded the last minute of play in each period and booed the home town team off the ice.
Angry fans chanted "Smytty! Smytty! Smytty!"
"Let's go Islanders!" shouted another, referring to Smyth's new team.
"It's been a pretty crazy day," sighed Oiler forward Fernando Pisani, who took Smyth's left-wing spot on the first line alongside centre Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.
Phoenix opened the scoring with just over six minutes left in the first period when the Oilers failed to clear the zone while shorthanded. Coyote defenceman Derek Morris dished the puck to Owen Nolan in the slot, who fired a shot past Oiler goalie Dwayne Roloson for his 15th goal of the year.
In a second period that featured three fights, Phoenix extended the lead at 4:34, again on the power play. A Morris point shot deflected to Yanick Lehoux at the side of the net. He fired the puck past a sprawling Roloson for his first goal of the year.
Steven Reinprecht made it 3-0 minutes later when he turned Oiler defencemen Jan Hejda inside out on Roloson's doorstep before backhanding the puck through the goalie's pads. The boos rained down. By the middle of the third, a quarter of the fans had gone home.
Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph stopped 26 shots for his 15th win. The Oilers lost their composure late in the second when captain Jason Smith, who had already fought Nick Boynton, began trading punches with players on the Coyotes' bench.
The 16,839 fans, who rattled the girders with cheers as Messier skated around with the Stanley Cup in the pre-game ceremony, seemed to be spent as well. They made little noise when highlight Messier goals were shown on the JumboTron during breaks in the action.
The game capped a day that saw both teams remake their rosters at the league's trade deadline. The Oilers stunned fans by swapping Smyth, the face of their franchise, to New York for two prospects and a draft pick. The 31-year-old mullet-haired winger from Banff, Alta., had been an Oiler since he was drafted sixth overall by the team in 1994. He leads the team with 31 goals and 22 assists in 53 games this season despite missing a stretch of games with a broken thumb.
The Coyotes traded away key scorers Oleg Saprykin and Yanic Perreault along with tough guy and former Oiler Georges Laraque.
Edmonton is now 2-2 against the Coyotes and its playoff hopes are fading fast. The Oilers were nine points back of a playoff spot heading into play Tuesday night.
NOTES - The Oilers proved to be the cure for what ailed the Coyotes' power play, which was ranked 29th heading into play Tuesday . . . Oiler defenceman Ladislav Smid was a scratch after taking a knee in the thigh in a game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday . . . Oiler defenceman Dan Syvret made his first NHL appearance of the year after being called up from the American Hockey League, but was in the penalty box for Phoenix's first goal.