Smith stops 21 shots as Coyotes top Oilers 3-1

The Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) February is becoming a month to remember for Ray Whitney and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Whitney scored a goal, Mike Smith stopped 21 shots for his 10th straight victory and the streaking Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Saturday to move into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan also scored for the Coyotes, who won their fifth straight to jump two points ahead of San Jose. The division lead could have proven brief, but the Sharks lost 6-2 at Nashville later Saturday night.

Whitney said the Coyotes can't get overconfident despite their 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.''

Martin Hanzal added two assists as Phoenix improved to 10-0-1 in February.

''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.''

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers, who lost for the first time in three games.

Phoenix opened the scoring when a shot drifting wide of the net by Eckman-Larsson hit the leg of Edmonton's Jeff Petry and bounced past goalie Devan Dubnyk to make it 1-0 with just under 6 minutes left in the opening period.

Edmonton caught a break of its own less than a minute later.

Phoenix's Lauri Korpikoski attempted a wraparound and the puck remained sitting on the ice between Dubnyk's legs. Antoine Vermette poked it into the net, but it was ruled that an official had already blown the whistle and the score remained 1-0.

The Coyotes took a 2-0 lead late in the first as Ray Whitney blazed past defenseman 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 served as stickboy for as a kid.

''Giving up the first two makes it a tough hill to climb against a team like that,'' said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. ''We made it really hard on ourselves.''

Edmonton scored about 8 minutes into the third when Ales Hemsky threw a puck in front and Nugent-Hopkins deflected it past Smith for his 14th of the season.

''I thought we did a better job in the second and third periods,'' said Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff. ''They're a disciplined team that's tough to play against, especially when you are trailing.''

Doan cemented the win for Phoenix with just over 2 minutes remaining, blasting a shot from the top of the circle past Dubnyk high to the glove side for his 20th goal of the season.

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. ... Oilers coach Tom Renney returned to the bench after missing five games with a concussion sustained when a puck hit him in the head during practice. ... Nugent-Hopkins returned to the lineup after missing 20 of the last 22 games with shoulder injuries. ... Oilers F Magnus Paajarvi played despite suffering what appeared to be a bad knee injury Thursday against Philadelphia. ... Phoenix F Gilbert Brule (head) didn't face his former team after being injured against Los Angeles.

What to Read Next