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Mueller, Vrbata score in shootout to lift Coyotes past Avalanche 4-3

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The power play was good to the struggling Phoenix Coyotes. So was a shootout.

Peter Mueller and Radim Vrbata scored in the shootout to give Phoenix a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night. Aiding the Phoenix surge was an effective power play. Having trouble with the man advantage over recent games, the Coyotes clicked twice in six opportunities.

"We really worked hard on the power play," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We've tried to simplify it, and make sure everyone understands the responsibilities and the work ethic. Just as important is your skill level."

The win pushed Phoenix to the .500 mark at 18-18-1. The Coyotes have won just six of the last 17 at home.

"We have many good days ahead of us," Gretzky said. "There is a long road ahead of us, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel."

The Coyotes improved to 3-1 in shootouts this season. Following a 2-0 start in shootouts, Colorado dropped its first shootout.

After the Avs' Wojtek Wolski failed to record a shot in the shootout, Mueller scored on a wrist shot past goalie Peter Budaj. Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov then stopped Marek Svatos, and when Vrbata scored on a backhand, the Coyotes picked up two points.

Colorado rallied to tie the game, and forced overtime and the shootout. Down 3-2, Cody McLeod's second goal of the season with 4:49 left in the third period created the deadlock.

"We're disappointed because we let them back in to the game," Avs forward Ben Guite said. "We had a really strong first period, and allowed them to come at us."

The Avs struck first when Wolski took a perfect pass from Andrew Brunette from the right corner, and beat Bryzgalov at 12:23 of the opening period. The goal was only Wolski's second in his last 10 games, and 13th on the season.

The Coyotes' best first-period opportunity occurred when defenceman Keith Yandle fired from the right point. That shot, and his follow-up rebound, were both handled by Budaj midway through the period.

The Coyotes then scored twice within 11 seconds in the second period. First, Vrbata jammed in a loose puck just outside the crease on the power play at 3:30 of the second period, and Steven Reinprecht, charging down the slot, beat Budaj 11 seconds later to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead.

Vrbata added his second power-play goal of the game when he converted a long pass from Mueller with 4:08 left in the second.

"In recent games, I felt like the puck was not bouncing my way," Vrbata said. "It seemed to find my stick. As a player, you don't try and change anything. You just hope you're in the right place."

The Avalanche cut it to 3-2 in the final minute of the middle period when Brett Clark knocked in a rebound from close range. The goal was Clark's fourth of the season, and only his second point in his last six games.

While the Avs settled for one point, it could have been worse.

"We'll take the point," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're coming off two disappointing losses at home (to Detroit, Los Angeles) and down 3-1 in this one, getting the one point isn't too bad."

Notes: Avs captain Joe Sakic, recovering from hernia surgery, missed his 14th straight game. ... The Coyotes' two goals within 11 seconds was not a franchise record. Winnepeg's Deron Quint scored two within four seconds on Dec. 15, 1995, an NHL record. Winnipeg moved to Phoenix at the start of the 1995-96 season. ... The teams conclude a home-and-home series Wednesday night in Denver. The Coyotes then return home for games with Chicago and Anaheim. Colorado has the Islanders at home Saturday before embarking on a five-game road trip.



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