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Coyotes beat Avalanche to move back into playoff spot

Associated Press

3/23/2012 2:07:38 AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes won one for The Doaner.

Playing without suspended captain Shane Doan, the Coyotes beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Thursday night to move into seventh place in the Western Conference and match the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings with 86 points. The Coyotes have played one more game than the Kings.

Doan was suspended for three games without pay for elbowing Dallas' Jamie Benn on Tuesday night.

"Guys knew they had to step it up," coach Dave Tippett said. "As a team, we were stronger earlier in the game but didn't make enough plays in the third. We hung on, picked up the two points and now move forward."

Mike Smith made 39 saves for his 100th NHL victory, and Daymond Langkow and Kyle Chipchura scored in the first period, and Raffi Torres made it 3-0 late in the second.

"This was a gritty win against a very good hockey team," said Smith, 33-18-9 this season and 100-84-28 in six seasons with Dallas, Tampa Bay and Phoenix. "They're desperate like us, and with Shane out, guys really picked up the slack."

Ryan O'Reilly spoiled Smith's shutout bid 4:28 into the third, and Paul Stastny added his 20th of the season with 5:39 left. Colorado is ninth in the standings, even in points with eighth-place Dallas at 85.

From a goal mouth scramble early in the opening period, the Coyotes struck first.

Out of a maze of players, Langkow managed to get his stick on the puck outside of the crease. Goalie Semyon Varlamov fell backward and his momentum pushed the puck over the line 3:24 into the game.

With just over 4 minutes left in the period, Chipchura slide the puck under Varlamov's right pad for his third of the season, and his first since Feb. 11 against the Blackhawks.

"Once I moved across the blue line, and saw (Ray) Whitney with the puck on the right side, I knew I had to break for the net," Chipchura said. "(Whitney) is so good seeing the ice in front of him and gave me a perfect pass."

With the early lead, the Coyotes held back and took advantage of Colorado errors

"Phoenix is a team like that," O'Reilly said. "They wait for you to turn the puck over and then capitalize on their chances. That's what they did and I don't think we were disciplined with the puck early in the game."

The Avs' best chance early in the game came in the second period at the end of a power play attempt when Smith stopped O'Reilly from close range.

Torres then made it 3-0 when he drove one-timer into the net from the left faceoff circle with 3:05 left in the second. Torres has two goals in the last three games.

In the race for playoff position, the Avs have six games left, three at home. The Coyotes have seven left, four at home.

NOTES: Avs D Erik Johnson missed his second straight game because of a back injury. ... Gilbert Brule had two assists for his first multipoint game for Phoenix since being acquired Jan. 10. ... The loss snapped Varlamov's winning streak at five.