March 6, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle (3) celebrates his gaol against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-US PRESSWIRE
Keith Yandle led by example Sunday night against the Oilers in what was arguably the most important matchup of the season so far for the Coyotes. Yandle, not known for his fighting prowess, dropped the gloves at the 1:25 mark of the first period with Lennart Petrell and set the tone for the rest of the game.
After a scoreless first period, the Oilers would break the stalemate with a goal from Jordan Eberle at 7:58 of the second. The goal came off a defensive-zone turnover by the Coyotes, but after further review it looked as if Eberle was offside and the linesman missed a crucial call. However, the play would not be reviewed and the Oilers would remained with a 1-0 lead.
It seems to be a habit of the Coyotes to not only give up a goal, but to give them up in bunches. Less than a minute after Eberle's goal Ales Hemsky would put home a rebound past Mike Smith to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead. The Coyotes would go into the second intermission down two goals and in desperate need of a momentum boost.
With the clock ticking down near the midway point of the final period things were looking grim for the Coyotes, but Whitney would give his team just the kickstart they needed. Whitney would rip a shot past Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk off the post and in to put the Coyotes on the board.
The Coyotes were still in need of a goal, and the scrappy forward Torres would provide it. Torres would put home a quick one-timer shot for his 14th of the year and tie up the game with just under three minutes left.
The teams would play out the remained of regulation and enter an eventful overtime period.
The Coyotes and Oilers would play a five-minute overtime period that included three penalties, one being a penalty shot. After Yandle was called for a questionable trip, the Coyotes assistant captain came out of the penalty box like a bullet, flying past the Edmonton defense and forcing Shawn Horcoff to take a hooking penalty that sent Yandle to center ice for a penalty shot that could seal the game.
Yandle would miss, but his teammates responded to the huge effort he left on the ice. The Coyotes would come close again, nearly scoring on a man-advantage, but this game would have to be decided in a shootout.
Smith would stop 36 shots for the Coyotes, including two shootout chances, in the big win.
With the win Sunday, the Coyotes are now tied for seventh in the Western Conference with 83 points, and first in the division with the Dallas Stars.
In four of the Coyotes next five games they will face Colorado, San Jose and Dallas, all teams they are tied with in the standings. By the end of that stretch, the playoff race will begin to look much clearer. The first of those matchups will be Tuesday, against the Stars.