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Coyotes continue streak over Oilers in dramatic fashion

Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith tries for a save against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Associated Press)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There was a time when the Edmonton Oilers were the pushovers of the NHL, stumbling around for 82 games while racking up the top pick in the draft year after year. And in that time, the Arizona Coyotes began to amass a pretty impressive run of success against their Pacific Division rival.

The Oilers are much better now. But the Coyotes are still finding ways to beat them.

Max Domi and Shane Doan picked up goals, Mike Smith made 32 saves and Oliver Ekman-Larsson beat Cam Talbot for the game-clincher as Arizona edged Edmonton 3-2 in the shootout on Friday night at Gila River Arena.

With the win, the Coyotes are now 20-0-4 against the Oilers in their last 24 meetings. And if that seems like an impressive run, well, it is. The last time a team strung together a 24-game point streak over the same opponent, it was Edmonton doing the winning over Vancouver from 1985 to 1988.

Connor McDavid has only been in the lineup for three of those meetings, but he made his presence felt in a big way on Friday. He was around the puck seemingly all night, looking every bit like the game’s next truly great player. He also scored just 1:31 into the first period, using his blazing speed to break away from the pack and beat Smith.

Arizona regrouped pretty quickly after that though.

“I think we came out pretty solid actually,” Domi said afterward. “He got a good bounce in that goal and had some space to skate so we kind of collected our thoughts there and came back, and overall it was a great 60 minutes from our team.”

Edmonton managed to knock in the next goal too, on a shot from defenseman Adam Larsson. But Domi responded instantly with his third goal of the year just nine seconds later. They say the biggest shift is the one right after a goal is scored, and the Coyotes needed an answer in a game that looked like it might slip away, despite the fact that they were delivering a strong effort.

“McDavid’s goal, there was energy in the building; it’s early,” Dave Tippett pointed out. “Then we give up that second one and we felt like we were getting some chances and not scoring. We give up the second one and it could have really deflated you, but all of a sudden, boom, we come back and we’re right back in the game. Energy is back in the game of course. That was a huge turning point for us.”

The scoring slowed down after that but the action didn’t. The game was physical at times, from Patrick Maroon boarding Connor Murphy, to McDavid literally jumping into the Arizona bench in an attempt to sidestep Anthony Duclair. And there was constant end-to-end action, the sort of contest you’d expect with speed and skill on the ice.

The Oilers have one of the most skilled players in the world on their side. Meanwhile, the Coyotes have one of the faster young groups in the league. They didn’t want to get into a shootout with an Edmonton club that leads the Pacific Division, had won three straight entering this one and had racked up 16 goals over their last three outings.

“We know that we don’t have the skill to play that type of game, so we have to outwork them,” Ekman-Larsson explained. “I think that’s why we’ve been successful.”

After a scoreless second, Doan lit the lamp in third to tie things up. Anthony DeAngelo assisted on the goal to run his point streak to four — despite the fact that he’s only played eight career NHL games — but then took a penalty in overtime. Arizona killed it off, but McDavid appeared to score just as time expired in the extra frame.

Replay showed he was 0.1 seconds too late though, sending the game to the shootout. Radim Vrbata notched his NHL-record 43rd career shootout goal, and Ekman-Larsson finished it off with by firing one past Talbot in the third round.

Ekman-Larsson’s performance, in particular, was especially impressive given that he was the one tasked with chasing McDavid around all night.

With the win, the Coyotes are now 2-1-2 in their last five outings, all of which have come against division rivals.

NOTES

– The Desert Dogs wore their original, black Kachina jerseys as part of ThrowBlack Friday.

– There were actually three goals reviewed in this one. The Coyotes thought they may have scored at 6:08 of the first, but it was determined that the puck never actually crossed the goal line. Doan’s goal was reviewed but ultimately deemed good and McDavid’s potential OT tally was just a split second too late.

– Arizona has played at least two less games than everyone else in the Pacific, three less than the Oilers and four less than the Flames.

– These two clubs will meet again Sunday afternoon in Edmonton.

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