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Avs top Coyotes 4-3 in shootout

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes let a point slip through their fingers Friday night. Over the next five days, they'll find out just how big that point turns out to be.

Down 2-0 and looking out of sync in the second period, the Coyotes roared back with goals by Lee Stempniak, Ray Whitney and Shane Doan to take a 3-2 lead with 7:37 left in regulation. But Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly answered with the equalizer 4:31 left, then scored the only goal of the shootout as the Avalanche won for just the fifth time in their last 31 games, 4-3.

"We just came out flat and we really didn't get out legs under us until late in the second period," Stempniak said. "You see where we are in the standings and where they are and we certainly think we're the better team. But they got a jump on us."

Phoenix ended a season-long, six-game homestand at 3-2-1 and is 9-2-2 in its last 13 games. Having played 79 times, the Coyotes now sit idle for four days and watch the other playoff contenders use up their games in hand.

The Coyotes are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 96 points - two ahead of Los Angeles and Nashville, three ahead of Anaheim and four ahead of defending champion Chicago. But the Kings, Ducks and Blackhawks play twice and the Predators play once before Phoenix gets back on the ice Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Even ninth-place Dallas, at 87 points with six games left, plays three times while the Coyotes are on hiatus. So the 'Yotes, who played without Martin Hanzal, Ed Jovanovski, Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt, don't have anything assured yet.

"For the most part we've done our job and that's helped separate us from the teams behind us," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. "We're missing (four) key guys that we feel we can get at least three back over the next few days. We'll take a valuable point and take a little break before we go back to work."

Phoenix outshot Colorado 16-1 in the third period, but O'Reilly's goal was enough to force overtime. Goalie Peter Budaj made 35 saves in regulation and stopped Kyle Turris, Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney in the shootout for his 100th career win. The Avalanche snapped a four-game losing streak -- and all three of their wins in the last 17 games have come in shootouts, where they are 6-1 this season.

Budaj has now stopped 13 of 14 shootout attempts this season. Philippe Dupuis and Jay McClement also scored for the Avs, who had been 4-24-2 in their last 30 games.

"We needed to find a way to get a win, certainly," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "Our guys have been working hard, but we haven't been getting the results. To come out the way we did, especially after playing last night (and losing to Nashville) was impressive."

The Coyotes had beaten Colorado three times this season and had won their last six games against non-playoff contenders. But the Avalanche, who had two goals in three games against Phoenix, had a 2-0 lead 27 minutes into play, winning all the one-on-one battles and pouncing on scoring chances.

Dupuis poked his own rebound past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the final minute of the first period, and ex-Coyote Daniel Winnik set up McClement for a shot that deflected off the skate of Bryzgalov and just inside the left post at 7:16 of the second to put the Coyotes in a 2-0 hole.

"We've had such a tough stretch here we had to get on the winning track," said McClement, who scored his first goal since coming from St. Louis in a trade on Feb. 18 and added an assist. "This was probably our best effort throughout a game in a long time."

After botching four power-play chances against the NHL's worst penalty-killing until (76.2 percent), the Coyotes found some life at 16:29 when Stempniak ran down Colorado's John-Michael Liles and swiped the puck in the corner. He bulled his way into the slot and flipped a backhander over Budaj's shoulder for his 18th goal.

That lit the fire for Phoenix. Whitney hit the crossbar with one shot right after Stempniak's goal, but didn't miss when he got another chance 2:46 into the third period, punching Eric Belanger rebound between Budaj's pads at for his 16th goal.

The Coyotes took the lead on their fifth power play of the night, when Whitney served up a pass for Doan, whose one-timer off one knee beat Budaj. Doan's team-leading 19th goal gave the Coyotes their first lead at 3-2, but Phoenix couldn't hold it.

Colorado's Kevin Porter tried to split two Phoenix defenders, but the puck popped in the air and right to O'Reilly, who beat Bryzgalov at the left post and took the air out of the crowd of 15,739.

"You look at that play and it was 2-on-4 and the puck bounces right to their guy," Tippett said. "It was their only shot so I don't think you can over think that too much. I hate giving up the lead, but at least we got ourselves in position to win."

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