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Coyotes drop a point with shootout loss to Jets

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Winnipeg Jets were coming off a demoralizing loss in Anaheim, Calif., where they blew a four-goal lead in a loss Monday.

The Phoenix Coyotes desperately needed a win Tuesday to stay ahead of the Dallas Stars in the race for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.

Mental states didn't matter a lick. Winnipeg left winger Andrew Ladd scored the only goal of the shootout, and the Jets dealt the Coyotes a big blow with a 2-1 win Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena.

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

"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."

When Ladd scored, it was the first shootout goal that Phoenix goalie Thomas Greiss allowed in 10 attempts this season. Greiss finished with 21 saves through regulation and overtime. Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made 29 saves, added one stop in the shootout, while two Phoenix skaters shot wide of the target.

"They came out hard in the second (period) and we were on our heels a little bit, but our goaltender made some big saves to keep us in it, and then you are going into the third period 1-1 on the road and feeling pretty good," Ladd said.

Regarding his shootout goal, Ladd added, "I lucked out. I didn't realize it went in."

Midway through the first period, the Jets got a break when Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle tried to reverse the play away from pressure with a pass behind the net. The puck struck referee Frederick L'Ecuyer's skate and ended up on Jets center Bryan Little's stick. Little fed Ladd, who was crashing the net, and Ladd's one-timer beat Greiss, staking Winnipeg to a 1-0 lead at the 10:01 mark.

The Coyotes trailed at home after one period for the first time since Jan. 20, a stretch of 12 games, but they rallied quickly in the second period.

On a delayed penalty and an odd-man rush, Coyotes left wing Mikkel Boedker slid a pass across the slot to center Antoine Vermette, who dropped the puck to defenseman Zbynek Michalek for an easy slap shot into an open net. Michalek's second goal of the season tied the game just 19 seconds into the middle period.

"We were talking about making sure we had a good start in the second period," Michalek said. "You don't score many easier goals than that. I think our team responded pretty well after the first period. We just wish we did a little bit more in overtime."

The Coyotes had a four-on-three power play in overtime on which they managed just one shot. Boedker also hit the post for the second straight game in a critical situation, this time with the game tied in the third period. Winnipeg survived the threats and completed a sweep of the three-game season series with Phoenix.

The loss was critical for the Coyotes after Dallas beat the Capitals 5-0 in Washington earlier Tuesday. The Stars and Coyotes are tied in points for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot, but the Stars have a game in hand and own the tiebreaker based on more regulation/overtime wins. The Coyotes host the Stars in the final game of the regular season, April 13.

"It's a game of inches," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "There's an extra point there that you'd certainly like to have, but it wasn't for a lack of trying."

NOTES: Coyotes veteran D Derek Morris returned to the lineup for the first time in the past four games. Morris, who is normally Keith Yandle's partner on the team's second defensive pairing, was a healthy scratch for the past three games. ... Injured Coyotes G Mike Smith (right knee) skated the past two days before the team's practice. On Tuesday, he wore his pads. Smith will be re-evaluated this weekend. Phoenix hopes to have him back before the regular season ends. ... Coyotes RW David Moss (ankle) missed his second straight game. ... Jets C Bryan Little (two goals, six assists) extended his point streak to seven games with an assist on LW Andrew Ladd's first-period goal. ... Tuesday marked the first time that Winnipeg had played in Glendale since Oct. 15, 2011, its first season in Winnipeg after relocating from Atlanta. ... Winnipeg RW Blake Wheeler was originally drafted by Phoenix with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft, but the Coyotes never reached a contract agreement with Wheeler and he signed an entry-level deal with the Boston Bruins in 2008.
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