GLENDALE, Ariz. - The heroes change every night for the Phoenix Coyotes. The constants are goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and -- at least for the last three weeks -- winning hockey games.
Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak each scored twice to give Bryzgalov more than he needed as the Russian stopped all 23 shots in an easy 5-0 win over the overmatched Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
The Coyotes have now won seven straight -- tying St. Louis for the longest winning streak in the NHL this season -- and are 7-0-2 in their last nine games. Tuesday's win moved the Coyotes, a mediocre 4-5-5 after the first 14 games, past idle Los Angeles and into first place in the Pacific Division. They are within one point of Western Conference-leading Detroit, although the Red Wings have played three fewer games.
"Early in the season, we were undisciplined," said Hanzal, who was benched late in last Friday's win in Edmonton and has come back with two strong games. "Once we stopped taking penalties and putting ourselves in bad spots, we started winning games. It was pretty easy."
Just like that, Phoenix has its best 21-game record since the 2000-01 season (11-4-6) and has done it without a single player scoring more than Stempniak's 7 goals. The Coyotes have 11 forwards with at least 3 goals -- and none of them is named Shane Doan (1 goal in 11 games).
"We are a team in every sense of the word," Phoenix coach Dave Tippet said. "Every night, someone different contributes and we have a team that recognizes how we have to play to be successful. Our goaltending has been great and we have a group that is working pretty hard right now."
Stempniak had a three-point night while Wojtek Wolski (1 goal, 1 assist), Eric Belanger (2 assists) and David Schlemko (2 assists) piled on against the Oilers, who are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games and didn't show much after winning in Anaheim on Sunday.
"We win a game and we figure we're hoisting the Cup or something, I don't know. It's a joke," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "The battle level was nonexistent tonight. The pride in the jersey was not close to where it needed to be. It was an absolute joke, a travesty."
Edmonton was outshot 16-4 in the first period, the 15th game in a row the Oilers have been outshot in the first 20 minutes. Over the last four games, they've been outshot 66-17 in the opening period.
"We just weren't ready to start the game and it showed," Edmonton forward Sam Gagne said. "I think everyone saw our first period … and it wasn't good."
Bryzgalov might have had his biggest scare 10 seconds into play when a pass hopped over the stick of Edmonton's Dustin Penner at the near post. The Coyotes went the other way and Ray Whitney fed Hanzal for his first goal at the 48-second mark -- the only one they would need.
Wolski and Stempniak added second-period goals, and Phoenix added third-period goals by Hanzal and Stempniak.
It was the first shutout of the season for Bryzgalov and the 17th in his career - 15 of them coming in his three years in Phoenix. With defensemen Adrian Aucoin (lower body) andEd Jovanovski (flu) sidelined, Schlemko stepped up with the first two-assist effort of his NHL career and now has 4 assists in the last three games.
"It was good to hear guys on the bench in that last five or six minutes to say 'Let's play hard, let's get (the shutout) for Bryz," Tippett said. "That shows our team chemistry is coming around. Missing Jovanovski and Aucoin, those are two big- minute guys for us and the people who jumped in did a really good job."