PHOENIX -- With Wayne Gretzky's glowing praise still ringing in his ears, Ales Hemsky showed a little bit of 99's sense of timing yesterday by ringing up Gretzky's team a few hours later.
Hemsky lifted the Edmonton Oilers to victory, and into eighth place, with a goal and an assist in a crucial 3-1 decision over the Coyotes.
"He's a difference maker out there," said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert, who had two assists in the win. "He was making plays all around the ice. It's good to have a player like that on your team."
Hemsky's power-play goal at 15:43 of the second period put Edmonton in front 1-0, and his assist on Sheldon Souray's third period power-play goal made it 2-1.
"He played great again," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "It was a really nice play on Sheldon's power-play goal. Its' good to see the power play clicking along, six in the last three games. It couldn't be a better time to start clicking."
SEALED THE DEAL
Shawn Horcoff's empty netter sealed the deal, giving Edmonton's its third straight win.
The Oilers, who haven't been scoring much lately, reverted to a tight-checking defensive battle in a game they absolutely needed to win. And it worked.
"Every game is a playoff game now, it's not going to be 5-0," said Gilbert. "You have to battle all 60 minutes and we did all the little things you need to do to win."
Dwayne Roloson, starting his 12th straight game, was fantastic again, backboning the offensively-challenged Oilers into the winners' circle with 28 saves.
"We definitely didn't have our A game early on," said Horcoff. "But that's a great sign. We're starting to realize that we're not going offensively at least we can fall back into a solid defensive style until we do. In the second period we started to turn the tide a little bit."
The first line has clicked for 15 points in the three games since being reunited, which is exactly what MacTavish and the team needed.
"That's what we're supposed to do," said Horcoff. "We talked about it when we all got healthy and got back together. Me and Pens (Dustin Penner), our seasons haven't gone the way we'd like, but there's plenty of time to make up for that.
"At the most important time of the year we can come together and really give our team a boost. These are the important ones. And Pens is a big part of our line, when he's skating and he's going to the net he's a huge force out there."
Penner's assist gives him five points in the last three games.
"I'm getting more confidence and I'm moving my feet more with the puck," he said. "Before when I was getting it I was looking to get rid of it as fast as I could, it didn't matter which zone. When you play with a guy like Hemsky, because of his skill, you just want to get the puck to him.
"But I talked to Hemmer in specific detail about what he needs from me and he said hold on to it for a while and then give it to him."
Phoenix had a great chance to tie it late, on a delay of game penalty to Gilbert with 2:33 left in regulation. The Oilers had visions of LA's last second equalizer on Saturday dancing through their heads, but they got the big kill this time.
"We did what we needed to do, but it was a tight game, they played hard," said MacTavish, whose team won't have it any easier today.
The Sharks are a dominating force at home, and they're a little fired up after a lukewarm road trip. That's why last night's game meant so much. It's a lot better to go into it 2-0 than 1-1.
"It feels a lot better," said Gilbert. "All we can do is forget about these two wins and try to go out and get another one."
What me worry?
Despite being mentioned in numerous trade rumours and suggestions, in large part because he's headed for unrestricted free agency in the summer, Erik Cole isn't spending much time worrying abut his future.
"From my observations in the past with other teammates it can affect some guys negatively and positives, along with their spouses," he said. "It hasn't been too bad here. We haven't really talked about it all that much."