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A night to regret for Coyotes, but little is lost

It was April 1st and the playoff-bound Phoenix Coyotes,
winners in nine of their last 12 games, were hosting the
Colorado Avalanche, losers of four in a row and 23 of 26
since the beginning of February.

The joke was on the home team.

A slow start ultimately proved to be too much for the
Coyotes to overcome, as they fell in a shootout to the
woeful Avalanche in a game that, while frustrating, likely
won’t mean much for a team that has its sights on a much
bigger goal.

Still, this loss was a tough one to take for the Desert
Dogs.

“Yeah definitely, you see where we are in the standings
and where they are and, you know, we certainly think we’re
a better team,” forward Lee Stempniak said. “They played
well, we just came out flat and we really didn’t get our
legs under us, I think until late in the second period and
it carried over to the third. We had a lot of chances on
the power play and it would have been nice to have scored
more than one.”

The Coyotes did get off to a slow start, seeming a bit
lethargic on their way to a 2-0 deficit at the 7:16 mark
in the second period. But Stempniak pushed one through at
the 16:29 mark, beginning a run of three straight for
Phoenix, capped by a Shane Doan one-timer at 12:23 in the
third. At that point it seemed like the home team was
going to steal one.

“When we were playing well we were all over them,”
Stempniak said.

However, a Ryan O’Reilly goal at the
15:29 mark in the third tied it up, sending the game into
overtime.

It was the only shot the Avalanche took in the third
period.

“One shot, that was it,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett
lamented, adding that his team has caught its share of
breaks throughout the course of the season. “They got the
bounce tonight.”

The Avalanche got one more bounce, as O’Reilly slipped one
past Bryzgalov for what proved to be the only score in the
shootout, giving the Avalanche the win and the Coyotes a
night to regret.

“We weren’t very good for 30 [minutes], it’s frustrating,”
forward Ray Whitney said after the game. “I guess you
could say we fought hard after that, but the fact that we
put ourselves in that position is really upsetting as a
group.”

And the Coyotes do have some things to be upset about. A
one for six effort on the power play and an
uncharacteristically mediocre performance from Bryzgalov,
who saved just 17 of 20 shots, cost the team a chance to
sweep the Avalanche franchise for the first time since the
Coyotes were the Jets and the Avalanche were the
Nordiques.

Now, not playing again until April 6, the team has time to
rest and heal up for the stretch run. With 96 points and a
temporary hold on the Western Conference’s fourth seed,
Tippett said he hopes to have Taylor Pyatt, Lauri
Korpikoski and Ed Jovanovski back the next time the team
takes the ice.

So, even though the Coyotes lost a game they really had no
business losing, when all was said and done they were
still in a great position going forward. And, even in
Friday’s game, Tippett was still glad his team battled
through its slow start.

“I hate giving up the lead but we got ourselves in the
position to win at least,” he said. “Unfortunately we
didn’t, but we’ll take a valuable point there.”