Yandle, Coyotes close year in style
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Keith Yandle figured he wouldn’t sleep much on New Year’s Eve. Not because of any celebration, but because of what’s coming the next day: Team USA’s Olympic roster announcement.
Yandle certainly bolstered his credentials for Sochi with the latest demonstration of his offensive abilities.
Yandle scored his second goal with 6.5 seconds showing on the overtime clock and set up Mikkel Boedker’s tying goal with 70 seconds left in regulation, helping the Phoenix Coyotes rally for a 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
"It’s something I take pride in, being a guy if you’re down or if they need a goal, hopefully I can help out," Yandle said.
He certainly did in keying Phoenix’s latest comeback effort.
Phoenix dominated most of the opening period, ripping off 15 more shots before the Oilers scored three goals in a little over seven minutes spanning the first and second periods.
Trailing 3-1, the Coyotes pulled goalie Thomas Greiss for an extra attacker, and Yandle worked a nifty give-and-go with Boedker for the tying goal in regulation. He topped that as overtime was about to end, fighting off a defender and gathering a bouncing puck to beat former teammate Ilya Bryzgalov.
Tim Kennedy also scored, and Greiss stopped 15 shots after replacing Mike Smith in the second period for Phoenix, which has earned a point in six straight games — all in overtime.
"We always talk about scratching and clawing," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "You’ve got to do everything you can to get points in the regular season to get yourself into the playoffs. Some are a little bigger character builders than others."
The Oilers came out flat in the first period, spending most of it nearly stationary as the Coyotes buzzed around.
Edmonton came out of the period tied at 1, thanks to some big saves by Bryzgalov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ 11th goal.
The Oilers found their rhythm a little after that, getting goals from David Perron and Nick Schultz to go up 3-1.
But it all fell apart in the closing seconds of regulation and overtime, sending Edmonton to its eighth loss in 10 games. Taylor Hall had the primary assist on all three of Edmonton’s goals.
"The first period was the first taste, and we didn’t like that that much. That last goal was a tough one to swallow," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said.
Charged up by the largest home crowd of the season, the Coyotes surged out of the locker room against the Oilers, peppering Bryzgalov with 10 shots in the game’s opening four minutes.
They broke through a few minutes later when Yandle lost the puck, got it back and curled to the right circle, where he beat Bryzgalov stick side with a wrister.
Phoenix kept up the pressure, outshooting Edmonton 21-6 in the first period.
But for all their work, the Coyotes could manage only a tie heading into the second; Nugent-Hopkins scored with just over a minute left by swiping a backhand through Smith’s pads.
Edmonton took it from there, scoring 25 seconds into the frame. Perron got the goal, catching Phoenix’s defensemen pinching and scoring his 17th of the season on a breakaway.
Schultz made it 3-1 six minutes later, taking a whirling pass from Hall and beating Smith, who was replaced by Greiss after allowing three goals on 10 shots.
"In the second and third, I thought we played well," Eakins said. "I thought we were matching them, and (Nugent-Hopkins’ line) was really getting after them."
The Coyotes rallied behind a fortunate bounce. A shot by Kennedy hit the side of the net, bounced forward and caromed off Bryzgalov’s skate into the net.
Phoenix earned at least a point after pulling Greiss to set up Boedker’s tying goal, then won it on Yandle’s fifth goal of the season.
Already an All-Star and considered one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen, Yandle might have given himself a little better shot at playing for his country in the Olympics.
"It would mean everything," he said.