– They had three wins in their last 19 games. They are 13 points out of 14th place in the Western Conference and have an injury list deeper than the hole they have dug themselves in the standings.
But one thing the talented but very young Edmonton Oilers haven't done is surrender. The Phoenix Coyotes found that out the hard way Tuesday.
Down 2-0 in the second period against a Coyotes team fighting for every point, the Oilers roared back with three straight goals and pulled out a rare win when Dustin Penner scored with 21.3 seconds left in regulation to give Edmonton a 4-3 victory at Jobing.com Arena.
"The one thing we haven't done this year is quit on ourselves or look at scoreboard and feel sorry for ourselves," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "It's not always pretty; it's not always exactly what you want as a coach. But the one thing you have to start with is the requisite effort. We don't quit."
No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall scored his 16th goal and fed Penner for the game-winner as Edmonton snapped a five-game winless streak and sent the Coyotes to their fourth home loss in a row.
"They beat us twice already this year," Hall said. "So I think we owed them a little something."
This payback was painful. The Coyotes had risen to fourth place in the West eight days ago, but home losses to San Jose, Nashville, Los Angeles and now Edmonton have cost them a golden opportunity to hit the All-Star break with a head of steam.
The Coyotes were 19-0-2 when taking a lead to the third period this season, but a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes wasn't enough against a team that was 3-13-3 in its last 19 games.
"I don't know if our guys thought, because of where Edmonton is in the standings, that this was going to a game we didn't have to compete in," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "That was a poor performance by our group."
The newly formed line of Scottie Upshall,Kyle Turris and Shane Doan produced all three goals for Phoenix - two by Upshall, one by Turris. Upshall had the only goal of the first period when Keith Yandle's pass for Turris deflected off the skate of Edmonton's Tom Gilbert and right into the slot where Upshall was waiting.
When Yandle caught the Oilers on a line change 1:54 into the second period - whipping a pass off the boards to Ray Whitney, who found a trailing Turris in the slot for a pretty wrister - the Coyotes had a 2-0 lead and visions of repeating the 5-0 whitewash of Edmonton here on Nov. 23 were vivid.
But the Oilers refused to roll over, and their fourth line produced a big goal whenZack Stortini andJean-Francois Jacques were both in front of the net and got a deflection onKurtis Foster's shot from the point at 7:11 to cut the deficit in half.
When Hall and Linus Omark scored 72 seconds apart early in the third period, the Oilers were ahead and brimming with confidence --while the Coyotes were back on their heels.
"They're a hungry team and they aren't going to roll over for anyone, nor is any other team in the NHL," said Yandle, whose two assists extended his scoring streak to eight games and established a new career high of 42 points on the same day he was named as an injury replacement to the All-Star Game.
"It's tough to swallow, especially being up 2-1. You have to put the foot down and get the win and it was just one that got away from us."
The Coyotes did answer with the one line that was producing. Turris hit Doan on the rush, and he faked a shot before putting a crisp pass on the tape of Upshall in the slot. Upshall's one-timer beat Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk cleanly at 8:29 for his 14th goal and a 3-3 tie.
But with the game appeared headed to overtime, Hall sped down the left boards, put on the brakes and found Penner with a pass in the slot just as Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff screened Phoenix goalieIlya Bryzgalov. Penner fired home his 15th goal and the Oilers had just their third win in the 31 games in which they trailed after two periods this season (2-23-5).
"These guys want to be part of something special. And as much as our record suggests otherwise, this organization is right on the mark with that they're trying to do," Renney said. "It hard some nights, but this team is playing the way it's going to have to play to have success long-term."