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Jets win in SO, bump Coyotes from wild-card spot

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After working into prime playoff position with a strong three-game Eastern road trip last week, the Phoenix Coyotes have returned home and played themselves right back into the danger zone.

Andrew Ladd scored the Winnipeg Jets' only goal in regulation and converted the deciding goal in the shootout in a 2-1 win against the Coyotes on Tuesday at Arena.

The Coyotes, who lost at home to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, dropped out of the Western Conference's final wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by failing to earn two points against the Jets. The streaking Dallas Stars beat the Washington Capitals 5-0 on Tuesday, drawing even with Phoenix at 85 points, and moved into the wild card by virtue of having one game in hand.

Phoenix knew it had to win to stay ahead of Dallas, which trailed Phoenix by five points after the Coyotes completed their road trip at 2-0-1 with a 3-2 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on March 27.

Zbynek Michalek's goal early in the second period wasn't enough.

"It's hard to ignore the standings." Michalek said. "[The Stars] played on the East Coast, and they finished before we started, so I think everybody knew the score, knew they won, and we had to respond. We got one point, so we'll move on."

The Jets had lost 11 of their past 14 games, including a 5-4 overtime loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in which they led 4-0 late in the second period. The win moved Winnipeg to 78 points, keeping its flickering playoff hopes alive.

Rebounding to win was about more than two points for coach Paul Maurice and his team.

"It was obviously a tough one for us [Monday]," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said. "I think Paul did a great job of refocusing our team. He came in and he let us know it would be a huge statement game for us, regardless of where we are in the standings.

"As men, to come in here and respond when everything is stacked against us, the way we grinded it out to get two points … that was awesome."

The Jets swept the season series against the Coyotes, with two of the three wins coming by way of the shootout. And in a game filled with important bounces, most of them went Winnipeg's way, including Ladd's shootout goal, which hit the post and then Phoenix goalie Thomas Greiss' back before crossing the goal line.

"I lucked out," Ladd said. "I didn't realize it. I got back to the bench and saw it on replay. But I'll take it."

Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves and stopped Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata in the shootout before Antoine Vermette fired Phoenix's final attempt off the goal post.

Greiss made 21 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped Bryan Little in the shootout before Ladd's shot ping-ponged past him. It was the first shootout goal Greiss allowed after stopping nine previous attempts this season.

"There's an extra point there you'd certainly like to have, but it wasn't for a lack of trying," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "They got a couple of bounces, and we didn't. Sometimes as good as you want to be, the game doesn't let you be as good."

One of those bounces helped Winnipeg to an early lead.

Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle's attempt to send the puck around the boards hit referee Fredrick L'Ecuyer, and it stopped dead behind the Coyotes net. Little collected the puck, peeled around the net and fed Ladd for a one-timer that beat Greiss over the shoulder into the far corner at 10:01. Ladd's 23rd goal was his fourth in his past five games. The assist extended Little's point streak to seven games.

It was the first time the Coyotes trailed after one period on home ice since Jan. 20 against the Toronto Maple Leafs (12 games). It didn't take them long to even the score.

On a delayed penalty, Boedker found Vermette with a pass across the slot. Vermette drew Pavelec out of the net before teeing up Michalek, who was unmarked as the trailer, for a one-timer into a gaping net 19 seconds into the period.

The goal energized Phoenix, which outshot Winnipeg 14-6 in the second period. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson kept the momentum going with an open-ice hit on Wheeler -- one of 40 Phoenix hits in the first two periods. But Pavelec kept the game tied, making big saves on Chris Summers and then Jeff Halpern and Kyle Chipchura in succession late in the period.

The Coyotes were strong again early in the third, and Boedker rang a shot off the far post with 9:50 left. But after mustering eight shots in a 30-minute span, the Jets picked up their game down the stretch, and Greiss needed a big save on Matt Halischuk with six minutes left to keep the game even.

Phoenix had a power-play chance in overtime when Wheeler caught Boedker in the face with a high stick with 1:15 left. But the Jets held and forced the shootout.

"We knew it wasn't going to be pretty or textbook, but our goaltender was the difference at times in the game," Maurice said. "It was such a tough, tough way to come into this building. Just to be able to rebound after [Monday] and find a way. I couldn't be happier for the guys."

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