EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers watched their playoff hopes trickle down the drain Wednesday night, losing 3-1 in a crucial, must-win game at home to one of the worst road teams in the NHL.
The Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes both came into this one fighting for their lives, four and three points behind the eighth and final playoff spot with nine games to go.
While Phoenix kept its season alive, the Oilers fell to 12th, four points and four teams out of eighth.
Mathematically they're still alive, but realistically they're toast.
As is so often the case when Edmonton and Phoenix meet, there weren't a lot of goals. But that's not to say there weren't a lot of chances. There were enough odd-man rushes at either end to make the coaches a little grayer, but netminders Devan Dubnyk of Edmonton and Mike Smith stopped eight and 10 shots respectively to keep it scoreless after 20 minutes.
Then the roof fell in on Edmonton. Two bad goals, the second one worse than the first, put Edmonton in the Phoenix death grip, where they remained for the rest of the evening.
The first came just 37 seconds after the faceoff, when Boyd Gordon scored from almost from behind the end line in the corner, with a centering pass that somehow got through an unscreened Dubnyk.
It was an ugly one, made uglier by the fact that Phoenix is 11-1-2 when it scores first.
Eight minutes after that, Dubnyk went out to play a puck behind his net and sent it right to Antoine Vermette, who ripped it back into the vacated net to suck the life right out of Rexall Place.
Bad, meet worse.
Nail Yakupov chopped at a loose puck in the crease to cut the Phoenix lead to 2-1 with 12 minutes left in the game.
The Coyotes sealed it in the final seconds of the third when a centering pass deflected in off Ryan Whitney's stick.
NOTES: Oilers winger Ales Hemsky, who has been limping and missed last game with a foot injury, hobbled into action Wednesday, largely because of the enormity of the situation. He is three games shy of 600 for his career. ... Defenseman Theo Peckham, who reported to training camp heavy, has played just four games this season as the Oilers coaching staff seems reluctant to forgive and forget... Phoenix goalie Smith is 4-1-1 against the Oilers, while the Coyotes are 10-2-2 against Edmonton under coach Dave Tippett. ... Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with a lower body injury. ... The Oilers are 12-6-2 when captain Shawn Horcoff is in the lineup. ... Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz hasn't played a game in the AHL since Jan 5, but he still leads all defenseman in scoring down there with 48 points. He was just named to the AHL all-rookie team.