Photo Credit: Norm Hall
COYOTES STARTING LINE-UP
(LW) Oleg Saprykin - (C) Mike Zigomanis- (RW) Georges Laraque
(D) Derek Morris - (D) Matt Jones
OILERS STARTING LINE-UP
(LW) Raffi Torres - (C) Jarret Stoll - (RW) Fernando Pisani
(D) Jason Smith - (D) Daniel Tjarnqvist
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
Edmonton - Jussi Markkanen
On Thursday night, a late goal by Petr Sykora would prove to be the difference as the Phoenix Coyotes fell to defending Western Conference Champion Edmonton Oilers by the final score of 3-2.
Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph wouldn't have the luxury of easing into the game as the Oilers produced a pair of shots on goal during the first 40-seconds of play; but Joseph looked sharp as he kicked aside both drives with his right leg, keeping Edmonton off the scoreboard.
With just over fine minute gone in the opening period, the Oilers tried to catch Joseph off guard when Raffi Torres made a drop pass from along the boards, through his legs to Fernando Pisani in the slot. Pisani then sent a wrist shot on goal, which Joseph easily stopped and covered for a stoppage in play.
At 8:34 of the period, the Coyotes drew the first power play of the game when Oiler forward Marty Reasoner was called for holding-the-stick. However, the man-advantage would only last 11-seconds as Phoenix's Joel Perrault was sent to the box for interference at 8:45.
The Oilers would come within inches of grabbing the first lead of the game at 10:50 of the first when Marc-Andre Bergeron's backhand shot from the left face-off circle, slid under the blocker of Joseph and hit the right goal post. Fortunately, the rebound came directly in front of Joseph, allowing him to safely move the puck away from the net.
Phoenix would counter with a great scoring chance of their own when Oleg Saprykin cut across the offensive zone from right to left, before unleashing a wrist shot back to the far side of the Edmonton goal. But the puck would never reach the net as Oilers netminder Jussi Markkanen snared the drive with a glove save as he fell to the ice.
Edmonton would hold the first full power play of the night when Coyotes defenseman Keith Ballard was sent to the box for hooking at 15:41 of the first. The Coyotes penalty-killing unit was perfect as they minimized Edmonton's presence in the offensive zone over the duration of the penalty.
The Coyotes would find themselves with the extra attacker at 19:23 of the first as Edmonton forward Petr Sykora was assessed a minor penalty for hooking. However, it would be the Oiler who would score a late first period goal when Edmonton dumped the puck into the Coyotes zone and Joseph ventured behind the net to stop the puck. Unfortunately, the puck took a bad bounce and slid past "Cujo", allowing Oilers center Jarret Stoll to pick up the loose puck and stuff it into the Phoenix net with just 10-seconds left in the first.
Through the first five minutes of the second period, the Oilers completely dominated the tempo of play. In addition to backing the Coyotes into their own zone and registering a series of shots on goal, Edmonton also kept the Phoenix forward confined to the neutral zone.
At 7:47 of the second, Edmonton took a two-goal lead when forward Ales Hemsky carried the puck into the offensive zone and took advantage of the space given to him. With extra room and an open shooting lane, Hemsky delivered a laser of a wrist shot from the left face-off dot that just cleared the crossbar and found the back of the net for a 2-0 Oiler lead.
After matching minors to Phoenix's Yanic Perreault and Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff at 7:53 of the second, Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris was sent to the box for hooking at 9:21, giving the Oilers their third power play of the game. Despite being shorthanded, the Coyotes found a away to climb back into the game when a loose puck in the neutral zone was chased down by Phoenix's Owen Nolan, allowing him to raced in alone on Markkanen and lift a backhand over the Oilers netminder and into the net to bring the score to 2-1. Nolan's goal was his eighth of the season and second shorthanded.
Following Nolan's goal, the Oilers and Coyotes would trade minor penalties with both penalty killing units getting the better of the unbalanced match-ups.
At 18:18 of the second, the Coyotes went back on the power play when Fernando Pisani was called for tripping. Then with just 15 seconds left in the period, Edmonton captain Jason Smith took a seat in the box for tripping as well. Phoenix would fail to convert on the man-advantage before the end of the stanza, but would start the third period with 18-seconds of five-on-three hockey.
The Coyotes began the final period on a two-man advantage for 18-seconds, but were unable to event the score before the Oilers returned to full strength.
Edmonton would continue to find themselves in penalty trouble as Matt Greene (tripping) and Steve Staios (hooking) ventured into the penalty box within eight seconds of each other, giving Phoenix another two-man advantage at 2:37 of the third. With a five-on-three in their favor, Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky used his only timeout to discuss strategy and rest the Phoenix power play.
The Coyotes would make take advantage of the five-on-three at 3:36 of the third when Yanic Perreault tried to send a pass across the crease to Shane Doan on the other side of the net. But before the puck could reach Doan, Perreault's pass deflected off the skate of Oiler blueliner Jason Smith and slid past Markkanen to tie the game at 2-2.
At 8:54 of the period, the Oilers returned to the power play as Owen Nolan was sent to the penalty box for hooking. Edmonton took the opportunity to establish their offensive pressure in the Coyotes end. While Joseph was sharp, making a series of saves, the best play came from Fredrik Sjostrom, who made an unbelievable block with his right foot at the top of the slot to keep a shot from getting on net.
With the third period winding down and overtime on the horizon, the Oilers produced a final offensive push that ended when Horcoff's centering pass form the left hand boards, landed on the blade of Petr Sykora's stick in the slot; where Sykora immediately snapped a wrist shot under the right leg of Joseph and into the net to make it a 3-2 game with just over a minute left in regulation.
The final minute of play would slip off the clock with Phoenix unable to tie the score as the Oilers held on, getting past the Coyotes by the final score of 3-2.