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Jets top Coyotes in Maurice's debut

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets won in Paul Maurice's debut behind their bench Monday night.

One day after the Jets fired coach Claude Noel and replaced him with Maurice, Winnipeg turned in a 5-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at MTS Centre.

Maurice arrived in Winnipeg late Sunday night, met with his new players briefly before the team's morning skate, and coached his first NHL game since November 2011 when he was fired by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The win ended the Jets' five-game losing streak, which matched the franchise's longest such streak since the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.

"They wanted to get out of this," Maurice said of his new team's slump. "They wanted to make it better."

The Jets, who had not won since Dec. 31, built a 3-1 lead in the second period and limited the Coyotes to 12 shots after the first intermission and a season-low 19 for the game.

"It's nice to get a win and get some excitement back in this room," Jets captain Andrew Ladd.

The Coyotes' problems continued after a recently completed 2-4-0 homestand. A 3-7-4 slide dating back to Dec. 14 has pushed the Coyotes out of a spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference standings. The Coyotes trail the Minnesota Wild by four points for the nearest available playoff spot, though Phoenix has played three fewer games than Minnesota.

"We've got some of the same players making the same mistakes," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "They're really good players for us, so we're going to have to deal with that."

A road game against the St. Louis Blues awaits Phoenix on Tuesday.

"It's desperation time," Coyotes forward David Moss said. "That's all there is to it. [Tuesday] we had better be as desperate as we have ever been."

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the Coyotes' only goal at 12:16 of the first period to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead. It was the young defenseman's fifth goal and his first in 23 games.

Jets center Olli Jokinen countered with his 12th goal 36 seconds later. Rookie Eric O'Dell, who scored his first NHL goal Saturday after going his first seven NHL games without a goal, snapped in his second goal of the season to send the Jets to their dressing room with a 2-1 lead after one.

Blake Wheeler scored his team-leading 17th goal at 8:49 of the second period to add to the Jets' lead. Michael Frolik scored his 10th goal at 4:18 of the third to snap a 10-game goalless streak, then Devin Setoguchi broke his 18-game goalless streak with his eighth goal to make it 5-1.

Setoguchi's goal was the Jets' only conversion with the man advantage Monday (1-for-8).

Mike Smith, who has been struggling for the Coyotes, returned in net and made 33 saves. Smith has not won in eight appearances since Dec. 21 and has allowed 12 goals in his past three starts. Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped 18 Phoenix shots.

The Coyotes went to work on their first power play of the game with Winnipeg's Mark Stuart off for holding Rob Klinkhammer's stick. After heavy pressure in front of the Winnipeg net that left Pavelec out of position, Ekman-Larsson raced to a puck sitting in the high slot and snapped it past Pavelec.

The Coyotes found themselves in early penalty trouble, committing four penalties in the first period.

"You've got a team that just changed their coach, and we come out and take four minors in the first period," Tippett said. "That pretty much shows our commitment to winning. We just kept making mistakes, and they capitalized on them."

Jokinen scored at even strength after Dustin Byfuglien's heavy forecheck forced a turnover behind the Phoenix net. Jokinen received the puck at the bottom of the slot and slid it past Smith to tie the game.

"They did the one thing that we had talked about," Maurice said. "When adversity came to the doorstep, that next goal was huge. The bench didn't get quiet; we stayed positive, and that's the start of the foundation of handling adversity over the course of the game and sticking with it. It was really, really important that we scored that goal to make it 1-1, so they didn't back down."

O'Dell scored a little more than five minutes later when he walked into the high slot and snapped a low shot past Smith to put the Jets ahead to stay.

Wheeler moved the score to 3-1 midway through the second period when he swept the rebound of Mark Scheifele's right-side shot past Smith. Frolik scored on a left-circle snap shot, and Setoguchi completed the scoring at 9:34, drilling a right-circle one-timer past Smith.

Pavelec admitted that the quick transition to a new coach made for a nervous time leading up to the game.

"I think we responded really well," Pavelec said. "Everyone was excited. I was a little nervous, that's for sure. I didn't know what to expect, but I think the whole team was focused, and everyone did a really good job."

Maurice is still adjusting to his new team, and he left Noel's system in place against the Coyotes. Although he saw reasons for encouragement, there's still a lot of work to be done, especially inside the defensive zone.

Frustration continues to build inside the Coyotes' dressing room. As Tippett did, captain Shane Doan pointed to his team's first-period penalty problems against a team with a new coach and trying to find its footing.

"It seems we find new ways every time," Doan said. "We hadn't really had an issue with discipline so far this year with penalties. You can't create much offense when you're shorthanded, and you give them opportunities to feel good about themselves. Everyone on their team was going to bring their A games because they were trying to prove themselves."

"You have a group of guys there who are pretty skilled and that are probably frustrated with how their years have gone," Doan added. "When they got an opportunity to prove themselves, they did everything they could to make it look good, and they did."

Tippett spread around criticism of his team's play.

"It's going to take a lot," Tippett said. "Our goaltending has to be better. Our top players have to be better. Our [defense] can be better, special teams. We can be better all the way through. It's as simple as that."

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