Coyotes’ Mike Smith records 44-save SO in return from injury

Mike Smith made 44 saves in his return from a 40-game injury absence and Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist to help the Arizona Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-0.

EDMONTON — Goaltender Mike Smith didn’t look like a guy that has missed half a season.

Smith made 44 saves to record the shutout in his return from injury and Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist as the Arizona Coyotes won their second consecutive game, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 on Saturday.

“It was nice to get back out there obviously,” said Smith, who missined the previous 40 games. “I haven’t played in a long time and I couldn’t draw it up much better than that. I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people.”

Vermette said Smith’s play was impressive.

“He was really good,” he said. “All through the game he made some big saves and he played well with the puck also. We know what he is capable of and he’s a big factor for us, so it was nice to see him back and hopefully he can keep going that way.”

Viktor Tikhonov and Alex Tanguay also recorded goals for the Coyotes (30-32-7), who have won two straight on the road on the heels of a franchise-high 10-game losing streak as the away team. They have also now put up a record of 18-0-4 against the Oilers in the last 22 meetings between the two teams.

Cam Talbot stopped 25 shots for the Oilers (27-37-7), who have lost two of their last three.

“The smarter team won the game, hands down. We had 44 shots on net, but other than Taylor (Hall’s) breakaway, I don’t recall having one single outnumbered rush. On the other end, we gave up five or six clear-cut 2-on-1s,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan, who went on to list a litany of defensive errors by his squad in the game.

“It’s a formula for failure. It’s been going on and has proven here over the years to be a formula for failure. We just proved it again tonight. It’s kind of insanity isn’t it? When you keep hitting you head against a wall and getting the same result.”

Edmonton actually had the bulk of the early chances, but it would be Arizona that struck first with 7:34 to play in the opening period as Martin Hanzal sent a puck towards the net from the sideboards and Tikhonov deflected it past Talbot.

Smith, who made his first start since surgery for an abdominal injury in December, had a strong first period, making 12 saves.

The Coyotes made it 2-0 seven minutes into the second period as Vermette elected to shoot on a 2-on-1.

Arizona added another goal midway through the middle frame as Tanguay skated into the slot and beat Talbot while the Coyotes were on a two-man advantage.

The Coyotes added to their lead midway through the third period as Vermette was allowed to get to his own rebound and record his second goal of the game.

The Oilers play the second game of a five-game homestand on Monday against Nashville. The Coyotes are off until Thursday, when they return home to face the San Jose Sharks.

Notes: Absent with injuries for the Coyotes were Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body), Anders Lindback (Achilles surgery) and Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone). Ekman-Larsson did, however, skate with the team on Saturday… Missing from the Oilers lineup were Oscar Klefbom (leg), Andrew Ference (hip), Brandon Davidson (knee), Benoit Pouliot (shoulder), Eric Gryba (knee), Adam Pardy (undisclosed) and Matt Hendricks (upper body)… Edmonton centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned from a broken hand injury after missing 23 games.

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