Oliver Ekman-Larsson came back from injury on the same night the Arizona Coyotes played the team they always seem to beat.
The result: More frustration for the Edmonton Oilers.
Tobias Rieder scored the winner in the second period and Ekman-Larsson was on the ice for all four Arizona goals in a 4-2 victory Tuesday.
The Coyotes extended their point streak to 23 games (19-0-4) against their Pacific Division rivals with the help of Mike Smith’s 27 saves on his 34th birthday.
The last time the Coyotes lost in regulation to the Oilers was Jan. 25, 2011.
“I wish I could explain it,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said.
On this night, a lot of it had to do with Ekman-Larsson. He returned from a six-game absence due to a shoulder injury, with the Coyotes desperately needing a spark after being blanked in consecutive games.
The result was a spirited effort, with Ekman-Larsson doing everything from picking up an assist to taking a stick to the face and drawing a penalty that led to a goal.
“He’s been out for a little bit, and then he comes back and plays like that,” Rieder said. “It’s amazing.”
Alex Tanguay and Martin Hanzal also scored for Arizona, and Max Domi added an empty-netter with 46 seconds left.
Jordan Eberle and Mark Letestu scored for the Oilers, and Connor McDavid had two assists to extend his point streak to five games.
Cam Talbot stopped 27 shots in Edmonton’s second straight loss overall and 24th defeat in 29 meetings with Arizona.
The Oilers lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after he took a hit in the second period. They finished 0-4-1 against their nemesis this season.
“Kind of the story of our season,” coach Todd McLellan said of the team’s numerous injuries. “We really don’t know what we have.”
The Coyotes showed they’re led by their talented Swedish defenceman. And Ekman-Larsson wasted no time making an impact.
His point shot produced a meaty rebound for Tanguay, who tapped the puck past Talbot at 5:38. It was Arizona’s first goal in seven periods, ending the longest drought (126:32) of the season. And it gave Ekman-Larsson his first 50-point season.
“I felt pretty good,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I had two weeks off and got my legs back. But it’s kind of hard to not play.”
Eberle tied it less than 4 minutes later on the power play when he knocked in a loose puck in front of the net for his 23rd goal.
But when Eberle’s wayward stick in Ekman-Larsson’s face drew a penalty midway through the second, Arizona took the lead for good. Hanzal redirected Michael Stone’s shot with the man advantage.
Rieder then cut toward the crease, collected Talbot’s poke check and pushed the puck in to make it 3-1.
“I was surprised I got to the net, first of all, and then it just stuck to me somehow,” Rieder said. “It’s good to get those.”
Letestu’s one-timer at 17:56 of the second made it 3-2. But the Oilers couldn’t tie it, despite a power play midway through the third period.
“We battled hard and won the special teams game,” Letestu said. “We just couldn’t find that third one.”
Smith continued his dominance against Edmonton. In his fourth game back from abdominal surgery, the goalie improved to 13-1-1 against the Oilers in his career.
“We tend to play well against them. I don’t know what it is,” Smith said.
Smith helped spoil McDavid’s first game in the desert. The No. 1 pick, whom the Coyotes coveted but missed out on getting in last year’s draft lottery, has 28 assists and 42 points.
But with Winnipeg’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver, the Oilers dropped to last place in the Western Conference.
NOTES: Oilers LW Patrick Maroon (illness) was scratched. Coyotes captain Shane Doan played in his 1,458th game, passing Glen Wesley for 22nd on the NHL career list. It was Hanzal’s 99th career goal.Report Typo/Error