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Another Slow Start Hobbles Coyotes In Loss To Lowly Avalanche

You knew eventually these slow starts by the Phoenix Coyotes would come back to haunt them. But perhaps no one expected that it would be the Colorado Avalanche that would be the one to make the Yotes pay.

With Phoenix hosting a squad that had lost 26 of 30 games, no that's not a typo, many saw the Avs as a potential trap game for the Coyotes, given the slow week for the fourth place Yotes.

But the Avs came out strong. After building up a lead early on against Anaheim early in the week, only to blow it, Phoenix fans were hoping for similar results on Friday, after the Avs jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Colorado got an early boost from one of those late period goals that the Coyotes are so good at giving up in recent weeks. It wasn't the prettiest goal, but Philippe Dupuis' goal that he forced between Ilya Bryzgalov and the right goalpost gave the Avalanche the 1-0 lead in the first period.

In the second period, the Avs would tack on another, this one courtesy of Jay McClement. Sitting all alone to Bryzgalov's right, McClement ripped one that deflected off of Bryz and into the back of the net to put Colorado up 2-0.

But then the Coyotes would decide to wake up.

Lee Stempniak would make it 2-1 on a terrific effort goal. Stempniak fought off two Avalanche defenders, lost the puck in front of the net, and found it just in time to flip the backhand past Peter Budaj.

One of the few mistakes Budaj would make all night came back to hurt him on the Coyotes' second goal of the game, early in the second. After a terrific save on Eric Belanger, Budaj gave up a rebound that Ray Whitney was able to scoop up and put past the veteran goaltender for the equalizer.

Phoenix would grab their first lead on some great puck movement on the power play, which resulted in a one timer from Shane Doan at the point, which sailed past Budaj for the 3-2 Coyotes lead.

But these Avs would not be silenced. After former Yote Kevin Porter lost the puck trying to split two Phoenix defenders, Ryan O'Reilly picked it up and fired it past Bryzgalov to make it 3-3.

It would be O'Reilly again coming back to haunt the Coyotes, after he netted the only goal of the shootout. O'Reilly scored on Colorado's second attempt, meaning that Ray Whitney would have to make his shootout goal, but was unsuccessful as Budaj deflected it wide for the 4-3 win.

The Coyotes do still grab a point in the loss, but are just two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for fourth, with LA holding two games in hand over the Yotes. The Anaheim Ducks also have two games in hand, and trail Phoenix by just three.

While the Coyotes are looking like they should be a top five seed in the Western Conference, nothing is to be taken for granted for the Yotes, even against a team like Colorado. 

With just three games remaining, all become crucial, especially given the fact that all three are against division opponents, including two against the San Jose Sharks to wrap up the regular season.

Their next contest, though, is not until Wednesday, when they visit those Kings in what could shape up to be a major battle for playoff position.