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Coyotes beat Stars to snap season-ending slide

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The playoff spot was locked up, the opponent was decided and the Dallas Stars emerged from their meaningless season finale against the Phoenix Coyotes no worse for wear.

But the 2-1 loss Sunday at Arena still didn't sit well with Dallas coach Lindy Ruff, who sat many of his top players but still saw an opportunity worth fighting for.

"I still slammed a water bottle at the end," Ruff said. "You still don't want to lose. I don't want to lose that game. We played hard, we got out of it OK. But the only bitter taste was at the end."

That taste will disappear quickly for Dallas. The Stars open the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. But for the Coyotes, it will linger for six months and could well signal wholesale changes for a team that has missed the postseason twice since reaching the Western Conference Final in 2012.

Phoenix forward David Moss scored with 2:31 left in regulation and the Coyotes snapped a season-long seven-game losing streak - a few games and a few days too late to make a Game No. 82 showdown with Dallas worth more than a moral victory.

It was Phoenix's first win since beating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on March 27. Between victories the Coyotes went 0-4-3 - losing four of the seven games by one goal - and saw the Stars pass them to grab the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

"I was up awful early this morning having a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise, just thinking about how exciting this day could have been," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Standing on the bench watching … that's a very hollow, frustrating game for a coach."

Thomas Greiss made 16 saves to earn his 10th win of the season, and the final one ever for the Phoenix Coyotes. The franchise will become the Arizona Coyotes for the 2014-15 season.

"You look through the season and you try to figure out where a point here or a point there could have made a difference and we didn't find it," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who scored his 23rd goal of the season in the second period. "We should have made the playoffs. You look at our team, and the only way you can say it is we weren't good enough. We have to find a way to score more goals up front."

Dallas played without many of its top players including captain Jamie Benn, defensemen Trevor Daley and Brendan Dillon, goaltender Kari Lehtonen and forward Ray Whitney. Tim Thomas made 29 stops in goal for the Stars.

Rookie Colton Sceviour scored early in the first period for Dallas, who headed straight to Anaheim after the game Sunday to prepare for the Ducks. Dallas won two of three games against the Western Conference champs this season, scoring 11 goals in the process.

"I think we match up with them well. We played them tough this season," Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "We're going to have to compete hard because they do and use our feet, use our speed. We're looking forward to it."

Dallas scored its only goal quickly. With Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the box for slashing, Vernon Fiddler fed Sceviour with a pretty, no-look backhand pass in stride near the slot. Greiss tried to poke-check the puck away, but didn't get enough and Sceviour flipped the rolling puck over Greiss on the backhand 2:35 into the game for his eighth goal.

The Coyotes outshot the Stars 11-5 in the first period and got even 31 seconds into the second. Zbynek Michalek held a puck in at the point and put a low shot through traffic. Doan redirected the puck past Thomas for his 23rd goal of the season and third in the past four games.

It's the most goals for Doan since the 2008-09 season, when he had a career-high 31.

The score remained tied until Moss took a Martin Erat drop pass in the left circle and fired a wrist shot past Thomas for his eighth goal.

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