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Coyotes' slump ends in Edmonton

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[January 25, 2014]  EDMONTON  The Edmonton Oilers continue to be the NHL's resident slump busters.

Three days after the struggling Vancouver Canucks ended their woes with a visit to Edmonton, the Phoenix Coyotes got their game back on track at the Oilers expense.

The Oilers made them work for it, rising from the ashes of a 4-0 deficit to make it 4-3 late with the goaltender pulled, but that's where it ended  with the Coyotes hanging on for a 4-3 victory at Rexall Place.

"Once the score got up 4-0, we made a couple of mistakes, we let them back in the game and made it tight," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "I thought we played well for 30 minutes and for the next 30 minutes we hung on."

For dear life, as it turned out.

"We talked about after the first that they had the firepower to come back in the game," said Coyotes right winger Radim Vrbata. "They almost did. We have to learn from that. Even at 4-0 the game is not over you have to play until the end."

The Coyotes were running through some rough waters before arriving in Edmonton, having lost seven of 10 games (0-3-2 in their last previous five road games), to fall out of a Western Conference wildcard spot and into ninth place, five points out.

Then they dropped the puck. Three goals in four minutes late in the first period and one more early in the second and, despite the third period scare, everything is good again.


At least for Phoenix. For the Oilers, it was their sixth loss in a row and 11th loss in the last 13 games. They remain last in the West and 29th in the NHL at 15-32-6.

"It happens all too often that we have to be down before we put the pressure on," said Edmonton winger Ryan Jones. "It seems like we put ourselves in a position where we have nothing to lose and then we start playing well.

"We have to come out like that right from the start, obviously."

The game got away from Edmonton in a big hurry, starting at 14:17 of the opening period when Coyotes left winger Mikael Boedker, streaking down the wing that Oilers defenceman Anton Belov was supposed to be covering, put a wrist shot in off the far post.

Three minutes later, right winger Radim Vrbata put one in from the uncontested slot on a power play, and a minute after that defenceman Derek Morris took a couple of steps in from the blue line and put a long over Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's shoulder.

Any thoughts of Edmonton cutting the lead to 3-1 and making a game of it went out the window when the Oilers gassed a 43-second two-man advantage (one shot) and gave up the 4-0 goal moments later when center Mike Ribeiro scored for Phoenix.

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This, after the Oilers made a point of focusing on a good start.

"That was one of the things we talked about prior to the game," said left winger Matt Hendricks, who made it 4-1 late in the second. "The way we finished hard (against Vancouver). We had a lot of momentum with us and wanted to carry that into tonight and we kind of fell flat on our face at the beginning of the game.

"It doesn't come down to Xs and Os ... it comes down to us performing better and we didn't do that at the beginning of the game and the result is us losing."

Edmonton made it somewhat interesting in the third when left winger Ryan Jones scored 1:50 to make it 4-2, and set up a dramatic final few minutes when center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins closed it to 4-3 at 7:50, but they couldn't find the equalizer.

"They kept coming and we let them back into it," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, adding the Coyotes took their foot off the gas when it was 4-0.

"Once we got the fourth one and then we kind of eased up. We have to keep going, we can't afford to do that because they have a good team that can score goals."

The Coyotes won all four meetings with the Oilers this season and have won five straight and 10 of the last 12. They have also won eight of their last nine in Edmonton.

NOTES: Phoenix C Antoine Vermette and D Keith Yandle now own the third and fourth longest active ironman streaks in the NHL at 361 and 353 consecutive games. They each moved up a spot when Henrik Sedin missed Tuesday's game in Edmonton to end is 679-game streak. ... C Martin Hanzal returned Friday after missing two games with a lower body injury. ... Oilers LW Luke Gazdic and D Nick Schultz were both healthy scratches Friday as head coach Dallas Eakins begins rotating players in from the press box to try and keep everyone somewhat active as they approach the two-week Olympic break. ... Oilers RW Nail Yakupov returned after missing two games with concussion symptoms. ... Oilers D Andrew Ference left the game in the first period after taking a head shot.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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