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Yakupov's OT goal gives Oilers 2-1 win

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Edmonton Oilers have left many NHL barns during the past few seasons with plenty of black-and-blue marks and no points. They are serving notice that the times might be changing -- and their latest marquee draft pick is leading the way.

Nail Yakupov, the first player taken in last June's NHL Draft, batted a power-play rebound just off the ice and into the net 3:52 in overtime – his fourth goal in his sixth NHL game – as the Oilers allowed the tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation but rebounded to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 Wednesday night.

Nick Johnson scored a 6-on-4 power play goal with 19 seconds left in regulation to earn the Coyotes a point, but Yakupov's third power-play goal of the season earned Edmonton the extra point.

"Nail has outstanding hand-eye coordination," Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger said. "I think that puck might have been on the ice by the time he hit it, but it might have been on the ice a millisecond when he swatted it in.

"He has possibly one of the best one-timers I've seen in my life as a coach which goes almost a quarter of a century now. I've seen a lot of players below [age] 21, but his hand-eye coordination and one-time ability is truly elite."

Lennart Petrell scored 4:51 into the game for Edmonton and goalie Devan Dubnyk made the lead stand up until Nick Johnson knocked in rebound on the doorstep after Phoenix pulled goaltender Chad Johnson for an extra attacker.

But Phoenix center Antoine Vermette caught Edmonton's Jordan Eberle with a high stick 2:22 into overtime, Taylor Hall's shot caromed off teammate Ryan Whitney's hand and Yakupov was waiting.

"That's a couple [of mid-air swats] Yakupov's had like that. That's his spot at the side of the net," Dubnyk said. "That's good for us if he keeps doing that."

Phoenix had won five straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Oilers dating back to the 2009-10 season. Dubnyk lost all four meetings with Phoenix last season and was 1-4-2 in seven career starts before making 27 saves this time.

"We talked about [breaking the streak] today; that it's a new year and we're a different team," Dubnyk said. "We want to show that and right now was the perfect time to start, in a place where we haven't been successful. It's an awesome feeling to win one here."

Chad Johnson, who shut out Nashville in his Phoenix debut on Monday, played well again with 19 saves. Phoenix played without five regulars including leading scorer Steve Sullivan, who missed the game with an upper-body injury. Despite dressing only 11 forwards, which forced coach Dave Tippett to mix and match lines all night, Phoenix (2-4-1) had several choice scoring chances but couldn't solve Dubnyk until Nick Johnson's late goal.

"It's unfortunate not to get two points out of the game because I thought we deserved it," Tippett said. "We have to keep battling, it's all we can do when look where we are. We weren't giving up much at all and we were getting some pretty good chances. You'd like to see a couple of those go in, but some nights they do and some they don't."

The Oilers came into the game with the NHL's No. 1 power play, having scored 10 of their 14 goals with the man advantage. They came up empty on their first three chances Wednesday, but cashed in when they needed one to win.

"Dealing with their late goal and sticking with it to get the two points showed a lot of character in another real big growth opportunity," Krueger said. "We would have liked to get Dubie the shutout, but the important thing is the two points. All other numbers are irrelevant."

The Oilers took a quick lead when veteran Ryan Smyth, scoreless in his first five games, made a power move from behind the Phoenix net and put a backhand shot on net. Chad Johnson made the save, but Petrell charged up the slot for the rebound and put it up and over Johnson for his first goal of the season.

The Coyotes pushed hard for the equalizer. Seconds after Sam Gagner hit the crossbar for Edmonton in the second period, Dubnyk made two huge saves – one on Alexandre Bolduc in the slot and another on Nick Johnson from just outside the blue paint to protect the lead. Early in the third period, Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent Vermette in alone with a long stretch pass, but Dubnyk outguessed the Phoenix center to make the stop with the blocker.

Phoenix got one last chances when Gagner was called for interference with 1:46 left, and the Coyotes pulled Chad Johnson for a two-man skating advantage. It finally paid off when Radim Vrbata's backhander was stopped but the rebound deflected off David Moss and was left sitting for Nick Johnson to tie the game.

Derek Morris hit the post for Phoenix before Vermette's high-sticking penalty led to Yakupov's game-winner.

In addition to Sullivan, the Coyotes played without goalie Mike Smith (groin), forwards Martin Hanzal (lower body) and Raffi Torres (suspension) and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (lower body). Former Coyote Nikolai Khabibulin, now 40 years old, dressed as the backup goalie for Edmonton in his first game of the season.

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