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Strong power-play lifts Arizona past Winnipeg

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

– The Arizona Coyotes came into the game with one of the Western Conference’s best power-play percentages. Tonight, they showed why.

The Coyotes tallied three power-play goals and another at even strength, while the Jets could only score once on a delayed penalty, falling 4-1 at Gila River Arena.

Arizona captain Shane Doan recorded a goal and two assists, Mikkel Boedker picked up a pair, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson added a single in the victory.

Mathieu Perreault scored the lone goal for the Jets, while Ondrej Pavelec
who was excellent between the pipes made 26 saves in a losing effort.

“We weren’t good enough to win a hockey game tonight,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.

“You can’t be in the box as much as we’ve been and have a night like that. Our penalty killing has been great, but one of (Arizona’s) strengths was the power-play and we spent too much time in the box. “

The Coyotes finished the night 3-for-5 with the man-advantage; the Jets, 0-for-7.

“They were better than us on special teams. Tonight, we lost that battle,” Perreault said.

It did not take the Coyotes long to improve on their seventh-ranked, 21.1-percent clip on the power-play. Just 23 seconds in, Bryan Little was called for tripping. It took the Coyotes less than a minute to capitalize, opening the scoring on Boedker’s 10th of the year.

With Ben Chiarot in the box moments later, the Coyotes feasted once more. Doan’s cross-crease feed found the stick of Ekman-Larsson, who made no mistake in depositing the tight-angle shot, roofing it up and over a sprawling Pavelec for the 2-0 score. Ekman-Larsson continues to lead the NHL in power-play goals among defencemen with eight of his 11 tallies coming with the man-advantage.

“We’ve been talking about it lately. Some of those penalties, we can’t afford,” Perreault said. “If you take a penalty to take away a scoring chance, we can live with that. But some of those penalties weren’t good and they scored on them, too, so it makes it even worse.”

Pavelec, who made a glorious blocker save off Lucas Lessio mere seconds after the Ekman-Larsson marker, was tested early and often, seeing an even 10 shots by the 10-minute mark of the period.

“I thought both goaltenders were really good,” Maurice said. “In a 4-1 game, you’d like to think yours wasn’t, but Pavs was real good.”

On a power-play of their own late in the opening 20, the Jets had a goal waved off when Blake Wheeler inadvertently interfered with Mike Smith. However, no penalty was called and Coyotes defenceman Chris Summers was flagged for roughing on the very same play, giving the Jets an extended two-man advantage.

While the visitors failed to score, another penalty (Michael Stone – closing his hand on the puck) provided the Jets with an additional 37 seconds of 5-on-3.

Unfortunately, nothing materialized with that and the remaining 46 seconds that carried over to the middle frame, keeping the game in a 2-0 score.

“Pretty high,” Wheeler said of his frustration level. “That doesn’t happen to us too often. It was definitely not [the start] we wanted. We’ve got to stay out of the box. We’re a pretty good 5-on-5 team. Taking those penalties is a killer.”

Shots on goal favoured the Coyotes 12-11 after one period of play.

With Jim Slater off serving a tripping infraction, Arizona scored yet another power-play goal to extend to a 3-0 lead with 4:25 left in the second period. Guarding the doorstep, Doan pounded home a rebound after Stone’s point shot was emphatically kicked aside by Pavelec and his Gumby-like left pad.

The Jets got on the board at 6:49 of the third period as Perreault corralled a beautiful cross-seam feed from Andrew Ladd and whipped it into the gaping cage, making it a 3-1 game with a bunch left.

The Coyotes got it right back, though, as Boedker slipped past the Jets defence, scoring the insurance marker with 11:05 on the clock.

“I think in the second we got a little bit more of a push,” Perreault said. “We thought we gave ourselves a chance, but they got that quick goal against us and it took the wind out of us.”

The Jets are back in action on Saturday night in Los Angeles before wrapping up their three-game road trip the very next night in Anaheim.

-- Ryan Dittrick,
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