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Smith's shutout helps keep Coyotes in playoff chase

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- To climb into the Western Conference playoff picture, the Phoenix Coyotes knew it would be a challenges.

Starting a three-game homestand earlier this week, the Coyotes set their sights on picking up the maximum six points.

Mission accomplished.

Goalie Mike Smith turned away 24 shots to post his fifth shutout of the season to power the Coyotes to a 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche before 16,648 at Job.com Arena.

With the win, the Coyotes moved within one point behind eighth-place St. Louis and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Earlier in the week, the Coyotes defeated the Los Angeles Kings and the Detroit Red Wings.

"We need to focus on just ourselves and don't worry what other teams are doing," said Mikkel Boedker, who put the Coyotes on the board less than two minutes into the game. "It's important that we play our game. Right now, we're playing our system and everyone is contributing."

With goalie Jason LaBarbera defeating the Kings and Chad Johnson mastering the Red Wings this week, Smith took center stage against the Avs. In the process, Smith posted his 24th career shutout.

In his first game since suffering a blow to the head against Vancouver on March 21, Smith was hardly tested. The defense in front was airtight, and the Phoenix defense limited Colorado to 10 shots in the first 30 minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes scored early in each of the first two periods.

In recent games, the Coyotes surrendered goals early and had to play come-from-behind hockey. Against the Avs, they took control early.

First, Boedker fired in a wrist shot 1:46 into the game.

Martin Hanzal picked up a power-play goal just 3:06 into the second period, giving the Coyotes a two goal margin. Shane Doan and Hanzal broke two-on-none against goalie Semyon Varlamov and Hanzal converted Doan's pass into his 11th goal of the season.

From there, Smith shut the door.

The Avs lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games and continue to have the worst record in the NHL.

"From the drop of the puck, they were the more desperate team," Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson said. "That showed over the course of the game. We have to show more and we did not."

Phoenix defensive specialist Boyd Gordon added to the 2-0 margin when he turned a rebound off the backboard into his third goal of the season at 7:04 of the second period.

Doan then converted a pass from Radim Vrbata in front for his 13th goal of the season at 14:37.

"We wanted to have a strong start," said Gordon, who scored for the third time in his last six games. "There's a great sense of urgency right now and the homestand was successful. We got the results we wanted."

The victory marked the first time this season that Phoenix put together a three-game winning streak. Previously, they won two in a row on four different occasions.

Having lost to the Red Wings on Friday, the Avs faced a rested Phoenix team.

"You have to use the schedule to your advantage," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "I thought we were able to take advantage of the situation. To give us a chance, we had to take the six points in this homestand and now that keeps us in the game."

NOTES: Doan had his first two point since scoring twice against the Kings on March 19. It was Doan's fourth, multi-point game this season. ... Boedker scored his first goal since March 12 when he netted two against the Kings. Boedker is also seven points from 100 for his NHL career. ... Vrbata had his fourth multi-point game of the season. ... The Avs played back-to-back games for the seventh time. ... Colorado's Milan Hejduk, out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, became the first player in team history to play 1,000 games. .... Entering the game, the Coyotes were second in the NHL in goals (62) at home.
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