February is certainly becoming a month to remember for Ray Whitney and the Phoenix Coyotes.
Whitney had a goal as the streaking Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Saturday to move atop the Pacific Division. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan also scored for the Coyotes (32-21-9), who've won five straight to improve to 10-0-1 this month.
Goalie Mike Smith is also on a roll, stopping 21 shots for his 10th consecutive win. Martin Hanzal added two assists.
Whitney said his team can't get overconfident despite its recent run.
“We're happy with what we have done,” he said. “We've played well at times and competed hard most of the time.
“But we have to be careful not to get too excited or overconfident because of how things have gone. We've played well, but if you look at our schedule we have beat five teams that aren't in the playoffs this month and caught a couple teams that were struggling. We have to keep our feet grounded and remember that we are not there yet. We are not in the top-five or six in the league yet.”
Doan said the Coyotes have been opportunistic during their streak.
“We talked about making February a big month for us and it has been,” Doan said. “We've taken advantage of being at home a little bit more and having some time to rest.
“We know March is going to be a tough grind though. We have a long way to go to the finish and we have to make sure we take care of business in our next little homestand.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins replied for the Oilers (24-31-6), who lost for the first time in three games.
Edmonton got off to a bad start in the contest and was never really able to claw its way back into it.
“Giving up the first two makes it a tough hill to climb against a team like that,” said forward Taylor Hall. “We made it really hard on ourselves.”
Added captain Shawn Horcoff: “I thought we did a better job in the second and third periods. They're a disciplined team that's tough to play against, especially when you are trailing.”
Phoenix got a break to open the scoring just under six minutes in. A shot which was going wide of the net by Ekman-Larsson hit the leg of Edmonton defender Jeff Petry and bounced past surprised Oiler goalie Devan Dubnyk.
However, less than a minute later Edmonton got a break of its own.
Phoenix's Lauri Korpikoski attempted a wraparound and the puck remained sitting on the ice between Dubnyk's legs. Antoine Vermette poked it in but it was ruled he had done so after the referee had blown down the play to keep it a 1-0 game.
The Coyotes took a 2-0 lead late in the first as Whitney blazed past Oiler defender Ryan Whitney then slid the puck through Dubnyk's legs. It was Whitney's 12th point in his last seven games against the Oilers, a team he was the stickboy for as a kid.
Edmonton scored eight minutes into the third as Ales Hemsky threw a puck in front and Nugent-Hopkins deftly deflected it past Smith for his 14th of the season.
However, Doan cemented the win for Phoenix with just over two minutes remaining. He blasted a shot from the top of the circle past Dubnyk high to the glove side for his 20th goal of the season.
Edmonton travels to Winnipeg on Monday while the Coyotes are off until Tuesday when they play host to Vancouver.
Notes: It was the third of four meetings between the two teams this season. Phoenix won the first two at home by identical 4-2 scores, getting the goals from eight different players... Oilers head coach Tom Renney returned behind the bench to guide the team after missing five games with a concussion after taking a puck to the head in practice... Nugent-Hopkins returned to the lineup after missing 20 of the last 22 games with shoulder injuries. Despite his lengthy absence he came into the game trailing New Jersey's Adam Henrique by just six points for the rookie scoring lead with 35 points in 40 games to Henrique's 41 in 52 games... To make room on the roster for Nugent-Hopkins, fellow rookie Anton Lander was sent down to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League... Oiler forward Magnus Paajarvi played despite suffering what looked like could be a bad knee injury Friday against Philadelphia... Phoenix forward Gilbert Brule (head) didn't face his former team after being injured against Los Angeles. Defenceman Derek Morris (personal) is out indefinitely while defenceman Rostislav Klesla (upper body) and forward Kyle Chipchura (wrist) are on injured reserve.
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