With one of their top goal scorers in Scottie Upshall lost for the season to an ACL injury, the Phoenix Coyotes
need other players to raise their games in order to maintain their solid standing in the Western Conference playoff race.
Matthew Lombardi stepped to the forefront Monday night, recording two goals and three assists for a career-high five points in a 6-1 rout of the Edmonton Oilers
at Jobing.com Arena.
Robert Lang added a goal and two assists, while Ed Jovanovski, James Vandermeer and Radim Vrbata
also scored for the Coyotes, who have won seven of eight to claim fourth place in the West.
"I think we've got a team with a lot of depth here, and it just shows our character," Lombardi said.
Dustin Penner scored with 4:28 remaining for the Oilers, who have lost the first three of a five-game road trip.
"We had our opportunities, they were there," forward Ethan Moreau said. "We could've had four more goals."
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 33 shots for his 31st win of the season, fourth in the League. Despite the lopsided score, Edmonton finished the game with a 34-33 advantage in shots.
"I thought it was a sloppy game. I thought we were sloppy," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "The big difference early in the game was Bryzgalov. He kept us in the game early, let's be honest. The score wasn't indicative of the play. We were a sloppy team tonight. Bryzgalov cleaned up a lot of messes and we had a couple players play great for us. Lombardi and Lang were both great for us. Sometimes that’s what it takes to win."
Tippett threw Lombardi and Lang on a line together due to injuries to various forwards and each finished the game with a plus-5 rating.
"We were looking for some chemistry, we didn't think our lines were creating the chances they needed to create," Tippett said. "Lombardi's one of the guys that’s played a little bit of wing before. We threw him over there, put Joel Perrault in the middle -- and I thought Joel was alright until he left the game, too. That's kind of where we're at. We had a MASH unit there tonight. We'll see where everybody's at tomorrow."
Perrault, who was making his season debut, captain Shane Doan
and forward Vernon Fiddler all suffered injuries. Tippett said he didn't think any of them were serious.
"They all played after they were hurt, so that's a good sign," he said.
The Oilers failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage while the game was still scoreless and the Coyotes grabbed a 2-0 lead after one period. Jovanovski one-timed a Lang feed past Jeff Deslauriers at 9:58 and Lombardi scored his first of the night on a backhander with 31 seconds left.
Vandermeer set up Lombardi's second goal 1:11 into the middle period and the typical stay-at-home defenseman, who had five goals in the previous three seasons, scored his fourth of this campaign at 5:48 on a slapper from just inside the blue line.
Vrbata, who had previously shared the team goal-scoring lead with Upshall, scored his 19th with 4:19 elapsed in the third and Lang capped the scoring for the Coyotes with 8:20 to play.
Phoenix tied its win total of 36 from 2008-09 with 22 games still remaining in the regular season.
"I think we're proud of what we've done so far," Lombardi said, "but we really don't want to sit back and look at it like that. We've got a long ways to go here. We're trying to build something here and our goal is to make the playoffs."
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.