PHOENIX - Call it even.
The Coyotes rubbed Edmonton’s nose in a 5-0 mess the last time they played here, so the Oilers served up a little vengeance by breaking some Phoenix hearts in the rematch.
Taylor Hall set up Dustin Penner for the winner with 21.3 seconds left in the third period to win a back-and-forth 4-3 thriller with huge playoff implications.
OK, maybe not for Edmonton, but the Coyotes were treating this one like it was late April.
The Oilers might be dead men walking as far as the playoffs are concerned, but just about everyone else they’ll see for the rest of the season is fighting for their lives.
Phoenix needs the points to stay ahead of Chicago, Colorado, San Jose and the playoff cutline. Wednesday’s opponent, Dallas, is fending off Phoenix and Anaheim for the division lead while trying to track down Detroit and Vancouver for first overall.
Every night they’ll be playing an opponent that can’t afford to lose. It’s going to make for even tougher sledding between now and golf season.
“It does but it also serves as impetus to go out and play hard,” said head coach Tom Renney. “We can really determine a lot of things right now. For ourselves first and foremost its about developing a reputation, developing an identity and a real commitment to what we want to be, not just right now but long term.
“And beyond that, these are teams that we’re playing right now that desperately need these points. We can really affect the Western Conference down the stretch here by how we choose to play and the results we’re able to garner.”
The Oilers fell behind 1-0 early in the first period and 2-0 early in the second on goals from Scottie Upshall and Kyle Turris.
Unlike last visit, when the Oilers let it get from bad to worse, they fought back with three-straight goals to take the third period lead.
The fourth line started it with a goal that came from nothing but hard work. There wasn’t much left of the puck when it finally crossed the line, but JF Jacques’ deflection cued the comeback.
Taylor Hall, who had half a dozen chances earlier in the game, tied it on a fluke when his centering pass hit Sami Lepisto’s skate and banked in. Just over a minute later, Linus Omark’s one-timer put Edmonton in front.
The Coyotes are good for a reason, though, and Upshall’s second of the night, a one-timer off Shane Doan’s pass, made it 3-3 at the midway mark of the third.
And they couldn’t even get a OT point out of it.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett knows from watching Oilers game film that they have the potential to be a major headache down the stretch.
“When you watch Edmonton play you see glimpses of high-end talent,” he said. “Those are the things that grab you from this Edmonton team. They look like they’re playing loose, they’re enjoying it, they compete hard and they play fast.
“They’re hungry for credibility and every time they go out and play well they add to that credibility. They look like they enjoy trying to get better and that makes them a dangerous team.”
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