We bet the Tampa Bay Lightning wish they still had Mike Smith right about now. Just hours after Pittsburgh torched Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson in an 8-1 blowout to send Tampa Bay slipping further out of the playoff picture, Smith posted his 10th straight victory to give Phoenix a two-point lead in the Pacific Division race. The pressure is now on San Jose to win against Nashville Saturday night to re-establish the tie.
Phoenix got out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ray Whitney in the first period. With just 2:28 minutes left in regulation time, Shane Doan added an insurance goal. It was Doan’s 20th goal of the season, which makes this the 11th campaign that Doan has found the back of the net at least 20 times. It was also his 316th career goal with the Phoenix Coyotes/original Winnipeg Jets, putting him just seven goals shy of Keith Tkachuk for second place on the franchise list.
For Edmonton, this game marked the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had missed 20 of the team’s previous 22 contests due to shoulder problems. Even after all that time on the sidelines, the Oilers did not feel the need to ease him back into the lineup, as Nugent-Hopkins ended up logging 21:34 minutes. He also scored the Oilers’ lone goal, as he looks to make up lost ground in the battle for the Calder Trophy.
While Phoenix is battling for their division title, the Edmonton Oilers have no hope of making the playoffs. After the trade deadline comes and goes, the only question left will be if the Oilers can avoid finishing in last place in the NHL for the third straight season. They currently rank 29th overall, but have an 11 point lead on the Columbus Blue Jackets.