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Coyotes beat Thrashers 4-3 for sixth straight win

by Jerry Brown /
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes are losing players left and right. That hasn't stopped them from continuing to win.

Lauri Korpikoski stepped in for late scratch Taylor Pyatt and contributed a goal and an assist and Keith Yandle led a shorthanded defense corps by tying his career-high with 3 assists as the Coyotes continued their mastery of the Atlanta Thrashers and won their sixth straight overall, 4-3 at Arena on Thursday night.

The Coyotes, who also got goals from Eric Belanger,Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal, improved to 12-1-1 all-time against the Thrashers. They are 7-0-1 in Arizona, outscoring Atlanta 29-15.

"It was an ugly game, the last two games haven't been exactly the way we want to play at home," said Doan, who scored for the first time in 15 games. "But we've found ways to win and found ways to keep the momentum going."

The Coyotes played without defenseman Adrian Aucoin, a late scratch with a lower-body injury, and lost Ed Jovanovski to what could be a long-term facial injury at the end of the second period, but Yandle picked up the slack with his second three-assist game of the season. His 41 assists and 50 points are tops among NHL defensemen.

Jovanovski's cheekbone area collided with the helmet of Atlanta's Patrice Cormier at high speed just before the second-period horn. Jovanovski, who has already missed 12 games this season with a variety of injuries, skated off crouched over with his face in his hands. He will be reevaluated Friday, but coach Dave Tippett admitted "it looks like it could be serious."

The win allowed Phoenix to hang on to first place in the Pacific Division and third place in the Western Conference with 71 points. The Coyotes begin a daunting five-game road trip Saturday in Nashville.

"It was great to finish the homestand with three wins and take a winning streak on the road for this tough trip," said Korpikoski, who has set career highs in goals (12) and points (28) this season. "You try not to look at the standings because everything is so tight. You just concentrate on winning and trying to get your points."

Atlanta's Rich Peverley had a goal and a pair of assists -- giving him 9 points in seven career games against the Coyotes -- while Chris Thorburn andAndrew Ladd also scored.Tobias Enstrom added a pair of assists for the Thrashers, who have won just three times in their last 16 games (3-9-4) and remained 10th in the East, two points behind eighth-place Carolina.

"When you're on a big winning streak, you win some games you shouldn't. Right now, we're losing games that we shouldn't lose," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsey said. "Our kids are working and trying so hard, we should at least be getting some points out of these games. We're throwing 30, 40 shots at the net, we're creating chances … but our composure level still isn't where it needs to be. Our panic level is too high and that's part of the growth period."

In a game played at a high tempo but sloppy from the get-go, both teams scored while Phoenix'sMikkel Boedker sat out a hooking penalty just 3:19 after the opening faceoff.

Korpikoski picked the pocket of Enstrom and fed Belanger for an easy one-timer past Atlanta goalieOndrej Pavelec at 3:41. It was Belanger's first goal in eight games and his first shorthanded goal since 2007-08, when he was in Minnesota.
But just 1:24 later, Enstrom's wide shot caromed hard off the end boards and landed at the feet of Thorburn, who pitchforked the puck up and over goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to even the game.

Those boards turned friendly for the Coyotes to push them back on top. Derek Morris' innocent dump-in rocketed off the boards past Bryan Little and found Doan waiting at the left circle for a one-timer that beat Pavelec between the pads at 11:37. It was Doan's first goal in 15 games since Jan. 13 and gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead at intermission.

That set the stage for a wild, four-goal second period in which the lead changed hands twice. Atlanta capitalized on aRadim Vrbata penalty for running Pavelec whenDustin Byfuglien caught Phoenix on a change with a quick stretch pass, and Ladd finished off a Peverley feed for his 20th goal at 4:10. The Thrashers grabbed the lead 5:19 later when Peverley pounded a shot past Bryzgalov from the left circle for his third point of the game.

"We're getting good efforts and chances to win, but we can't keep losing games and points," Peverley said. "That was a good team that beat us but I thought we played well."

But the final five minutes of the period did Atlanta in. Yandle's high pass/shot to the slot was deflected down and in by Korpikoski -- surviving a video review for a high stick -- to tie the game at 15:44.

With 26 seconds left, Ray Whitney ended a strong shift by finding Hanzal through a sea of sticks in the slot from behind the net for a one-timer that proved to be the game-winner, with Yandle earning his third assist.

"Getting down and then coming together as a team to rally is a good night for us," Yandle said. "It was a free-for-all game and they are hungry, they need the points as much as we do. We've got it rolling and we fought hard to keep it going."

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