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Greiss and Coyotes shut down Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- It doesn't matter much whether Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett chooses to use Thomas Greiss or Mike Smith in goal when playing the Colorado Avalanche.

Each goaltender has enjoyed a great deal of success against the Avalanche, a trend that continued Tuesday at Pepsi Center when Greiss made 29 saves in the Coyotes' 3-1 win for his fourth career victory against Colorado without a loss.

Greiss got the start because Smith, who has an 8-1-3 record against the Avalanche, fell ill Tuesday morning and didn't improve as the day wore on.

"It's no problem," Greiss said. "You have to be ready if it's injury or sickness."

Antoine Vermette supplied all the offensive support Greiss needed with two second-period goals, and the Coyotes pulled within one point of the eighth-place Avalanche in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have a 17-8-5 record and 39 points in 30 games.

"It was great," Vermette said of Greiss. "He was phenomenal for us. He stood big time for us, gave us a chance. It was a solid road win. There was nothing fancy about our game. We got our chances and we put them in."

The Coyotes played without captain Shane Doan, who missed his second game in a row because of illness, but defenseman Zbynek Michalek was solid in his first game after missing nine with a lower-body injury.

"I try to do my thing every night," Vermette said. "When you’ve got a guy like Shane not being around, his presence around the team, off the ice means a lot to this team. With a few veterans out of the lineup, you want to make sure the other veterans on the team step up. It gives other guys an opportunity to step up and I thought Griess responded really well."

The loss was the second in a row and third in four games for the Avalanche (20-9-0), who have played one fewer game than the Coyotes.

"We didn't get too high early in the season when things were going our way and now it's certainly not a time to get too low," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We didn't have that punch-first mentality in front of the net. We have to be relentless there and we have to be hungrier there, that's for sure."

The teams combined for all four goals in a 7:01 span of the second period. Vermette began the scoring spree at 8:31 and ended it at 15:33 to give the Coyotes a two-goal lead heading to the third period.

"In the second period we got a couple of changes when they couldn’t get a change and sometimes that can swing momentum for you," Tippett said. "Momentum is a big part of the game and if you grab momentum and keep it, that’s big."

Greiss kept the Avalanche off the board with a number of tough saves, including one on a breakaway against Andre Benoit, and his teammates rewarded him.

"It’s always nice to get a couple of shots early and get into the game, not wait around," Greiss said.

The Avalanche have had trouble finishing chances lately, scoring 15 goals in the past eight games.

"We had some great scoring chances in that first period," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "I think it's just the type of shots that we're taking on our chances. They need to be better shots, but I thought we had a good start. We played very well in the first period. We gave them only two scoring chances and we had four or five pretty good chances. Their goalie made some great saves."

Vermette scored on a power play to open the scoring when he skated to the net, got inside position on Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin, and converted a pass from Keith Yandle.

Jordan Szwarz made it 2-0 at 12:06 when he put in the rebound of Jeff Halpern's shot while moving down right wing with Avalanche forward Patrick Bordeleau after goalie Semyon Varlamov made a pad save.

Bordeleau cut the deficit in half at 14:28 with his career-high fourth goal after Cody McLeod battled Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone behind the Phoenix net. When Stone tried to clear the puck, it hit Bordeleau and caromed off Greiss' left skate before sliding across the goal line.

"It just bounced off my skate and in," Greiss said.

The Coyotes responded 1:05 later. Mikkel Boedker outraced Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden for the puck in the corner, circled from behind the net and passed to Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a shot on goal. Varlamov made the stop, but Vermette fired the rebound into the net for his ninth goal of the season.

The Coyotes got a scare at 6:09 of the period when Bordeleau checked Mike Ribeiro into the boards. Ribeiro fell to the ice and was in obvious pain, but he returned shortly after and assisted on Vermette's first goal.

The Avalanche failed to score on two power plays and are 0-for-22 in their past eight games.

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