As the clock ticked down it was obvious which team still had something to play for this season.
Ray Whitney scored in regulation and in the shootout as the Phoenix Coyotes rallied to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Sunday night.
Raffi Torres scored for the Coyotes (36-26-11) with less than three minutes left to play to force overtime. Goalie Mike Smith made 36 saves in the win.
The victory moved Phoenix into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with Colorado at 83 points in the Western Conference.
“Every game matters so much for us right now,” said Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle. “If we had played loose and the way the Oilers wanted to play then we would have lost by a lot of goals. We fumbled it around a bit in the first period but I think we played our game more as the game wore on. We were able to work them down low and find a way to win.”
Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky replied for the Oilers (28-36-8) who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Despite the loss, Edmonton starter Devan Dubnyk was impressive with a 40-save effort.
“We had a pretty good game plan,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “The first period was pretty vanilla but I thought in the second that we really put our shoulders in and do what we needed to do to get the lead. We needed to do more of that in the third. We just turned it into a track meet for whatever reason and ultimately paid the price.”
“It's very frustrating,” added Eberle. “It seems to be the story of our season. A couple of mistakes and it costs us the game.”
One game after star forward Taylor Hall was leveled by a hit that left him with a concussion, it looked like another young Oiler was about to join him on the shelf.
Phoenix defenceman Rostislav Klesla ran Eberle head first into the boards behind the net five minutes into the game. No call was made, infuriating Renney, but Eberle was not injured on the play.
The Oilers broke the scoreless deadlock seven minutes into the second period when Ryan Jones picked off a pass by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and dished it to a hard-charging Eberle for his 32nd goal of the season and 70th point.
Edmonton then made it a 2-0 game just 34 seconds later as Hemsky tipped a Jeff Petry shot and then chipped the rebound past Smith.
Dubnyk kept the Coyotes off the board with a series of big saves to close out the second period and a breakaway stop on Lauri Korpikoski to start the third.
The Coyotes finally got one past Dubnyk eight minutes into the third period as Whitney sent a puck in off the post during a scramble in front of the Edmonton net.
Phoenix then tied the game with just 2:23 remaining as they got away on an odd-man rush and Torres beat Dubnyk up high with a quick snapshot.
“We were down and we knew we needed to fly some guys out of the zone to see if we could grab some advantage,” said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett, who earned his 400th career victory with the win. “Torres is an interesting player. He finds those opportunities. He can play erratic in a good way and he can shoot the puck really well. He made a great shot. It was a huge goal for us.”
The Coyotes were given a glorious chance to win it in overtime as Yandle was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway by Shawn Horcoff, but Dubnyk made the stop to send the game to the shootout.
“You look at the way the game went and we weren't playing the way we needed to be,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “They played really, well but we were just able to find a way. We're feeling a bit fortunate right now.”
Notes: It was the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. Phoenix earned its first season sweep of the Oilers in franchise history.... Phoenix came into the match the winners of nine of their last 10 against Edmonton. ... The Coyotes put themselves into the thick of the Western Conference race with an 11-0-1 run in February before losing their first five games in March. ... Oilers forward Taylor Hall missed the game with a concussion suffered on Friday when he was hit by Calgary Flames defenceman Cory Sarich. ... Also out for Edmonton was Ben Eager (back). ... Returning to the Phoenix lineup were Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Radim Vrbata (illness), though defenceman Adrian Aucoin (lower body) and forward Kyle Chipchura (upper body) remain out.
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