Photos by Norm Hall
The Phoenix Coyotes spent most of the opening two minutes of the game battling with the Oilers in the neutral zone as both clubs refused to let the opposition set up in the offensive zone.
When Phoenix forward Jamie Lundmark did register the first official shot of the game at the 2:26 mark of the first, Edmonton netminder Jussi Markkanen was able to cut off the angle from the right side of the net and make the save.
At 5:22 of the first period, the Oilers received the first power play of the game when Shane Doan was called for tripping on a play in the left face-off circle in the Coyotes zone. With the man-advantage, the Edmonton offensive attack finally came to life as they pounded the Phoenix net with four shot, all of which were kept out by goaltender Curtis Joseph as the two teams returned to five-on-five hockey.
Edmonton took their first penalty of the game at 9:55 of the period as Shawn Horcoff was called for interference. On the ensuing power play, the Coyotes did a good job of setting up offensively in the Edmonton zone, but only two of their shot were able to make it through to the Oiler net as the Edmonton penalty killers did a good job of getting in front of Phoenix shots and keeping the pressure off Markkanen until the minor penalty to Horcoff could expire.
The Coyotes would make the first mark on the scoreboard at 13:17 of the period when Lundmark grabbed a loose puck behind the Oilers net and sent a pass to a streaking Mike Comrie in front, who quickly snapped the puck under the right leg of Markkanen for his 15th goal of the season, giving the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Edmonton tied the game at 1-1 when Oilers forward Ryan Smyth took a long lead pass through the neutral zone, entered the Phoenix zone and blasted a slap shot from the slot and beat Joseph on the strong side for the goal. Smyth's goal was his 20th of the season and extended his current point streak to two games.
With 3:21 to play in the period, the Coyotes went back on the power play as Edmonton's Fernando Pisani was called for holding the stick. The Oilers penalty killing unit went to work against the Coyotes and continued to do a good job of closing off shooting lanes, forcing Phoenix to make extra puck movements, which stalled the power play and allowed Edmonton to kill off the penalty.
The final seconds of the opening period would wind down with the two clubs heading to the locker room tied at 1-1.
The Coyotes went back on the penalty-kill at 43 seconds of the second period when Dave Scatchard was called for hooking. The Oilers simply couldn't get any offense going with the help of the extra attacker as Phoenix killed off the infraction and returned to full strength.
Phoenix got a crack at the man-advantage at 4:15 of the second when Edmonton's Matt Greene was sent to the box for holding. On the Coyotes power play, it appeared that Mike Comrie had given Phoenix back the lead at 5:01 when he took a loose puck in the Edmonton crease and stuffed it past Markkanen, but immediately after the puck went into the net, the Oilers netminder raced over to the officials and began vehemently protesting the call. The officials met over at the scorer's table for a brief moment before signaling no-goal as a result of goaltender interference by Mike Johnson.
The Coyotes would get another chance at the power play with 12:34 to play in the period, when Oiler defenseman Chris Pronger was called for hooking. For most of the penalty, the Oilers did a good job of killing the penalty, then with 23 seconds left in the penalty, the Oilers were called for another penalty when Steve Staios was sent to the box for delay-of-game after his clearing attempt from his own zone went up and over the glass. The Coyotes would use up 1:20 of the Staios penalty before they found themselves making a march to the box.
At 10:24 of the stanza, Dave Scatchard was called for tripping, at the same time, the Oilers made use of a rarely used tactic and called for a stick measurement on Coyote defenseman Paul Mara. The officials measured the blade of Mara's stick and decided that it was in fact, illegal. As a result, Edmonton was given 1:20 of five-on-three power play to work with. The Coyotes did a solid job of killing off much of the penalties to Scatchard and Mara with outstanding goaltending by Curtis Joseph. Then with 11 seconds left on the two minor penalties, Phoenix made another trip to the box as Sean O'Donnell was called for roughing with 7:47 to play in the period. Fortunately for Phoenix, the full effects of O'Donnell's penalty wouldn't be felt as Edmonton's Marty Reasoner took his own trip to the box at 12:25 of the period for interference. This allowed the Coyotes to regroup and get back to full strength without allowing the Oilers to take the lead.
With 4:05 to play in the second, Joseph made a pair of highlight saves on the Oilers including grabbing a falling puck out of the air over the net to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Phoenix found themselves shorthanded once again at 16:03 of the period when O'Donnell was called for high-sticking. But the Coyotes penalty-killing unit remained sharp and focused as they kept the Edmonton offense in neutral and allowed O'Donnell to return to the ice without consequence.
Then with 47.3 seconds left in the period, the Coyotes retook the lead when Fredrik Sjostrom fired a wrist shot at the Oilers net from the left hand boards that was deflected in front by Mike Johnson and sent past Markkanen for a 2-1 Phoenix lead.
The final seconds of the period would expire and after 40 minutes of play, the Coyotes held a one-goal lead over the visiting Oilers.
The Coyotes refused to sit back and go into a defensive shell as the third period began. Instead they brought the action into the Oilers zone, but Markkanen was standing his ground, turning the Phoenix drives aside and keeping Edmonton within striking distance.
Edmonton refused to roll over as well and at 5:44 of the third, they tied to game at 2-2 when George Laraque drove to the net and put a shot on goal. In the process, Joseph was knocked backwards and when he reached out to cover the puck with his glove, Coyotes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg tried to push the puck into Joseph, causing the puck to slide over the goal line for the score.
At 6:44 of the period, the Coyotes penalty-killing unit was tested again when Shane Doan was called for hooking. But as they had done all night, they did a great job of keeping the pressure off Joseph and getting back to full strength.
With the Coyotes killing a penalty to Scatchard for cross-checking and Edmonton killing a penalty to Marc-Andre Bergeron for holding, the Oilers found open ice in the Coyotes zone as Jason Smith took a pass in the slot and sent a slap shot to the far corner of the net, beating Joseph and giving the Oilers their first lead of the night at 3-2.
The Coyotes tried desperately to register the tying goal as the period continued, but the Oilers were difficult to penetrate in their own end and Phoenix was getting rebuffed at every turn.
Then with 3:41 to play in regulation, a scrum in front of the Edmonton net ended when Oleg Saprykin was able to grab the puck, turn around and flip it into the net for his eighth goal of the season and tie the game at 3-3.
The Oilers would take a penalty late in regulation as Jarret Stoll was called for holding with 1:33 to play. Regulation would pass quickly and the two clubs headed into overtime.
The Coyotes began the extra frame with an extra skater as the Oilers still had 27 seconds to kill on the penalty to Stoll. Phoenix nearly took advantage of the extra attacker when a shot from the left face-off circle was lost behind Markkanen and nearly tickled into the net, but instead rolled just wide.
Both clubs took their chances in the extra frame and had good scoring chances, but neither goalie would budge and this game would have to be settled with a shootout.
In the shootout, the Coyotes scored twice on goals from Geoff Sanderson and Ladislav Nagy while Edmonton's only goal came from Ryan Smyth, clinching victory for the Coyotes.
THE "S" LINE
The line comprised of Geoff Sanderson, Oleg Saprykin, and Fredrik Sjostrom combined for a goal and two assists and was a combined +4 in the win over Edmonton.
"They have played well the last two games as a line and skate well together," said Gretzky.
BRING ON THE OT
The Coyotes are now 8-2 in the extra session with Saturday's shootout win over the Oilers and have won the last six games that have entered the additional stanza.
"We play well four on four as a team," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "It's a streaky thing but we have played well in overtime."
The Coyotes have outscored opponents 8-7 in four-on-four play this season.
LOTS & LOTS OF ICE
Zbynek Michalek has gotten a lot of ice time this season and has led the Coyotes in minutes played on several occasions. Against Edmonton Saturday, he set a personal high in his young career collecting 31:19 of total ice time. It's the fourth time in the last six games that the rookie defenseman has led Phoenix in minutes played.
WELCOME TO PHOENIX
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, made his debut with the Coyotes Saturday. The Schwenningen, West Germany native played 20:09 in the win over the Oilers.
"It was nice to get on the ice and play," said Seidenberg, who was paired with Paul Mara most of the night. "I am looking forward to a fresh start and playing well with my new team."