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Coyotes build four-goal lead, hold off Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The Phoenix Coyotes nearly let one slip away Friday night.

Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist to help the Coyotes race to a four-goal lead, but they needed 36 saves by Mike Smith to hold off the Edmonton Oilers and leave Rexall Place with a 4-3 victory.

Ribeiro's goal three minutes into the second period made it look like the Coyotes would cruise past the slumping Oilers. But Matt Hendricks scored late in the second period, and goals by David Perron and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the first 7:50 of the third period cut the margin to one goal.

"Once the score got up 4-0, we made a couple of mistakes, we let them back in the game and made it tight," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "I thought we played well for 30 minutes and for the next 30 minutes we hung on.

"It's not that we took our foot off the gas, it's the puck mistakes, the penalties, those kind of things, things that real good teams don't do and those are still things that are a work in progress for our group."

Smith made 12 of his saves in the third period to help the Coyotes end a two-game losing skid. Mikkel Boedker, Radim Vrbata and Derek Morris also scored for Phoenix.

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots for Edmonton, which has dropped six in a row.

"We were just trying to play a solid road game," Tippett said. "We kept getting pucks deep and we were hoping to get some traffic in front of the net. We got a few [goals] in a short amount of time. Coming out of the third period with a lead like that, on the road, you should really salt that game away."

The Coyotes took control of the game with three goals in a 4:02 span late in the first period.

Boedker opened the scoring at 14:17 when he found space on his off-wing and fired a shot over Bryzgalov's shoulder. Vrbata increased the lead on the power play at 17:10, converting a centering feed from behind the net by Martin Hanzal, who returned after missing two games with a lower-body injury.

Morris made it 3-0 at 18:19 by stepping into a point shot and blowing it past Bryzgalov for his fifth of the season but first since Oct. 31.

That four-minute slump wound up costing the Oilers.

"I thought we actually played pretty well for about 56 minutes," coach Dallas Eakins said. "We are a team, and have been for a while, that cannot give up opportunities like we did. Any time we make a mistake, and it doesn't have to be a drastic mistake, it finds its way into the back of our net.

"That being said, when you get down in a game like that, it can go one way or another. The guys can dig their heels in and fight for each other or the game can go really badly. Our guys hung in with it. It was great to see, but it is also disappointing how you can lose a game by playing poorly for three minutes."

Ribeiro gave the Coyotes a four-goal lead 3:00 into the second period, batting a centering feed out of midair past Bryzgalov. ??????

At that point, the Coyotes appeared to be in complete control. But the Oilers refused to quit, and Hendricks got them on the board at 13:17 by redirecting a pass through Smith for his first goal since being acquired from the Nashville Predators last week.??????

"Execution was a big thing for us," Hendricks said. "We couldn't get out of our zone and when we did, we made mistakes like poor passes.

"Once we were able to get out of our zone and get pucks deep, we realized that we are a pressure team and we need to use our assets like skating and hard work. Once we did that, we got them to start turning pucks over and it was hard for them to get out of the zone. You could just see the table kind of tilt in our favor."

Perron made it 4-2 at 1:50 of the third period, lifting a sharp-angled shot over Smith's shoulder. Nugent-Hopkins cut the deficit to one goal at 7:50, taking a drop pass from Jordan Eberle on an odd-man rush and beating Smith through the pads.

But the four-goal hole proved to be too much.

"It's been a common theme this year, our consistency," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We might play good for the first period and then sag in the second and play good in the third. We have to find a way to stop doing that. We are killing ourselves with efforts like that, not playing a full game."

The Oilers made a push for the tying goal and came close with Taylor Hall finding himself in alone on Smith late in the period. But Smith was able to make the save.

"We talked about after the first that they had the firepower to come back in the game," Vrbata said. "They almost did. We have to learn from that. Even at 4-0 the game is not over you have to play until the end."

Both teams are off until Sunday, when the Oilers host the Predators and the Coyotes continue their road trip against the Vancouver Canucks. ?????????

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