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game recap

Coyotes goalie Smith shuts out Oilers in return

Makes 44 saves in first game since Dec. 8; Nugent-Hopkins plays for Edmonton

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Goaltender Mike Smith could not have scripted a better return to the Arizona Coyotes lineup. 

Smith made 44 saves in his first game since Dec. 8, and the Coyotes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 at Rexall Place on Saturday.

Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist, and Alex Tanguay and Viktor Tikhonov scored for the Coyotes (30-32-7), who extended their point streak against the Oilers to 22 games (18-0-4). 

"It was nice to get back out there, obviously," Smith said. "I haven't played in a long time and I couldn't draw it up much better than that. I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people. There have been a lot of people that have helped me through this process and it's been frustrating at times and my family and friends have been very supportive. Those people are very important through a time that's not fun as an athlete going through. But to have that support is special, so I owe those people."

Video: ARI@EDM: Smith stones Hall's breakaway chance

Smith had surgery to repair an abdominal injury and missed 40 games. The shutout was his second of the season and his 29th in the NHL. He is 12-1-1 against the Oilers. 

"It was a tough turnaround from last night (a 4-1 win at the Calgary Flames) and we knew the goaltender had to be good for us tonight," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He was anxious to come back. On a tough turnaround, we put him in a tough situation and he reacted and played very, very well." 

Cam Talbot made 25 saves for the Oilers (27-37-7), who were shut out for the second time in three games and seventh time this season. 

"The smarter team won the game, hands down," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "We had 44 shots on net, but other than [Taylor Hall's] breakaway, I don't recall having one single outnumbered rush. On the other end, we gave up five or six clear-cut 2-on-1s. Reckless pinches, no coverage, we gave up a breakaway on our power play where [Martin] Hanzal walked in all by himself."

Video: ARI@EDM: Vermette wrists the puck past Talbot

Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played for the first time since Jan. 18, when he broke a bone in his hand blocking a shot at the Florida Panthers. He missed 23 games and came close to scoring on his second shift but hit the post. He played 15:49. 

Tikhonov scored 12:26 into the first period, redirecting Hanzal's centering pass over Talbot's shoulder. The Coyotes were outshot 12-5 in the first period. 

"Mike was really good, all through the game he made some big saves and he played well with the puck also," Vermette said. "We know what he is capable of and he's a big factor for us, so it was nice to see him back, and hopefully he can keep going that way." 

Vermette put Arizona up 2-0 on a 2-on-1 at 6:55 of the second period. Vermette kept the puck while breaking in with Tanguay and snapped a shot past Talbot.

Video: ARI@EDM: Tanguay beats Talbot on a two-man advantage

Tanguay put the Coyotes up 3-0 at 10:17, on a two-man advantage. With Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle and forward Zack Kassian in the penalty box for infractions seven seconds apart, Tanguay took a pass from Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone at the top of the faceoff circle, skated into the high slot and shot past Talbot. 

"We took a slashing minor to negate a power play, we shot the puck out of the ice surface on a penalty kill from one end to the other when we had all the time in the world," McLellan said. "We actually had seven guys on the ice at one point and got away with that. It's a formula for failure. It's been going on and has proven here over the years to be a formula for failure. We just proved it again tonight. It's kind of insanity isn't it? When you keep hitting you head against a wall and getting the same result." 

Vermette gave Arizona a 4-0 lead at 9:34 of the third period, capitalizing on an Edmonton turnover along the boards. Vermette had the puck bounce to him in front and his backhand was stopped by Talbot, but he lifted the rebound into the net. Vermette has four goals and five assists in his past five games. 

"I think it's just been clicking with my new linemates [Tanguay and Anthony Duclair] and I'm finding the areas a little better," Vermette said. "It's being going pretty well, so hopefully it'll keep going that way."

Video: Smith, Vermette lead Coyotes past Oilers

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