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Jets tied for third after shootout win vs. Coyotes

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets continued their push toward the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings with a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes at MTS Centre on Sunday, though they experienced some late turbulence.

The Coyotes crawled back from a 3-1 third-period deficit with two goals in a 2:49 span in the final 6:39 of regulation.

However, Winnipeg's Bryan Little was the only player to score in the shootout and salvaged the game for the Jets.

"It was a good ending," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "It was a really, really good ending."

The win concluded a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Jets, who have won a season-high four consecutive games, five of their past six and have points in their past six games (5-0-1). Winnipeg went 5-1-1 in the seven-game stretch.

"We didn't make it easy on ourselves [late in the game]," Little said. "We'd rather not win that way and give up leads, but at the same time, we're still managing to get wins and still managing to stick with it. [Holding leads is] definitely one area that we could get a little bit better at right now."

The Jets moved into a third-place tie with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division at 58 points apiece. The Blackhawks, who lost 6-3 at home to the Dallas Stars on Sunday, hold the tiebreaker with 28 wins to the Jets' 25. Winnipeg has a seven-point lead on the Calgary Flames for the first Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the West.

Little scored his team-leading 18th goal for the Jets (25-14-8) early in the first period, and Michael Frolik followed with a second-period goal. Dustin Byfuglien scored in the third period before Arizona's late comeback.

The Jets were playing without left wing Mathieu Perreault, who sustained an upper-body injury Jan. 16 in a 4-2 win at Chicago. Perreault is not expected play until at least after the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25. Perreault had 13 goals in his past 21 games before the injury.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Lauri Korpikoski and Tobias Rieder scored for the Coyotes (16-24-5), who had captain Shane Doan back in the lineup after he had missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Doan contributed two assists.

The Coyotes have lost five games in a row and continue their franchise-record eight-game road trip at Chicago on Tuesday. However, Doan and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett saw positives in the effort for a team that played Saturday at the Minnesota Wild, a 3-1 loss.

Arizona played without forward Mikkel Boedker (upper body) late in the game, an injury that Tippett said was day-to-day after the game.

"You're down 3-1 on the road [against Winnipeg in the second half of back-to-back games], that's a big point to get," Doan said. "To find a way to come back and find a way to get back into the game is huge."

Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith started for the seventh time in the past eight games and made 27 saves. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves for Winnipeg.

"We hung around all game," Tippett said. "[Smith] gave us another good game, and we found a way to keep chugging in the third. Give our guys a ton of credit. I like the way we hung around the game."

The Jets snagged a 1-0 lead 4:08 into the game when Little finished a 2-on-1 rush off a pass from Andrew Ladd. Little has three goals and three assists in his past six games.

Little has not been practicing recently because of an undisclosed injury, but he continues to anchor Winnipeg's first line and play in all situations. Little played 22:18 against Arizona.

"That's leadership," Maurice said of Little. "He is a quiet man. He is not a 'rah-rah' guy. But he is a really strong leader in that [dressing] room because he may well be the most consistent performer that I have seen in my time here."

But the Coyotes responded on their first shot of the game at 7:36. Ekman-Larsson took a pass from Doan and beat Pavelec from the left circle for his team-leading 12th goal. Ekman-Larsson is tied with Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche for the NHL lead in goals by a defenseman.

A miscommunication between Smith and Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy helped Winnipeg take back its lead 1:39 into second period. Smith's attempt to pass the puck from behind the net to Murphy failed and allowed Frolik to tap his 10th goal into the empty net.

Byfuglien put the Jets up 3-1 with 10:24 left in the game when he converted a 3-on-1 rush for his 12th goal of the season.

However, Tippett has been stressing the need for his players to go to the net, and the message paid off in the Coyotes' third-period comeback.

Korpikoski moved the Coyotes back to within one goal, scoring his fourth goal with a deflection off a screen on the power play with 6:39 remaining. Rieder tied the game with 3:50 left in regulation when he tipped a shot past Pavelec for his sixth goal.

"If we're going to score, that's how we're going to have to score," Tippett said.

Arizona survived overtime, including a Winnipeg power play in the final 1:05 after Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle tripped Byfuglien after pressure near Smith.

"Especially here in against [Winnipeg], a tough building to play in, to come back in the third [period], tie it up and get [a point] shows a lot of will and fight in our team," Yandle said. "[Smith] played great for us all night. He made key saves at key times. You can tell that he is feeling good and playing well."

Pavelec has struggled in shootouts this season, ranking 40th among League goaltenders with a .654 shootout save percentage, but he stopped all three attempts.

"I thought we dominated for two periods," Pavelec said. "We stopped playing in the third [period], but we battled hard. It's not easy. It wasn't a pretty game, but two points is two points, and we found a way."

The win leaves Winnipeg with one more game before the All-Star break; they will host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. Maurice is giving the Jets a day off Monday to rest after their run of games.

"I'm a really optimistic person," Maurice said. "But if you had said that we were going to go 5-1-1 on this seven-game stretch, I certainly would have taken it. I didn't necessarily think that it would be possible. This is by far the most difficult [part of our] schedule this season.

"I'm really happy with the results, really happy with handling some of the momentum shifts in the games. [There were] contributions from everybody, goaltenders had a piece [of] the wins. Our back end played big, solid minutes [and] generated offense. We got some great nights forechecking, effort-wise, physicality. So there is just a lot of good in the block [of games]."

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