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Coyotes hold off Oilers for 4-3 win; Edmonton's losing skid stretches to six

EDMONTON - The Phoenix Coyotes almost gassed a game by believing it was in the bag.

Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist as Phoenix held on to snap a two-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

Mikkel Boedker, Radim Vrbata and Derek Morris also scored for the Coyotes (24-18-9) who ended a five-game losing skid on the road.

Phoenix was comfortably in front 4-0 early in the second period when the tables suddenly turned and they found themselves hanging on for dear life to collect the two points.

"They kept coming and we let them back into it," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. "There is a little bit of (taking foot off the gas) and the fact that you have to get that next one. We talked about getting that fourth one, we got the fourth one and then we kind of eased up. We have to keep going. We can't afford to do that."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippet said his team was fortunate its lead wasn't erased altogether.

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

"Coming out of the third period with a lead like that on the road, you should really salt that game away. It's not that we took our foot of the gas, it's the puck mistakes, the penalties, those kind of things. Things that real good teams don't do, and those are still things that are a work in progress for our group."

Matt Hendricks, David Perron and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins responded for the Oilers (15-32-6), who have now lost six in a row for the second time this season and have had five losing streaks go five games or longer.

The Oilers are just three points ahead of last-place Buffalo and only have two wins in their last 13 games.

"It's been a common theme this year, our consistency," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We might play good for the first period and then sag in the second and play good in the third. We have to find a way to stop doing that. We are killing ourselves with efforts like that, not playing a full game."

Added Oilers winger Ryan Jones, who collected his 100th NHL point on the night: "It's almost like we put ourselves in a situation where we have nothing to lose and that's when we start playing.

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

Edmonton head coach Dallas Eakins was pleased with how his team came back, but wished they hadn't been in that situation in the first place.

"When you get down in a game like that, it can go one way or another," he said. "The guys can dig their heels in and fight for each other or the game can go really badly. Our guys hung in with it. It was great to see, but it is also disappointing how you can lose a game by playing poorly for three minutes."

The Coyotes started the scoring 14 minutes into the spirited first period as Antoine Vermette made a cross-ice pass to send Boedker in with some steam, beating Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with a well-placed wrist shot to the top corner. It was Boedker's 15th goal of the season.

Phoenix took a two-goal lead with three minutes left in the opening period after some quick passing allowed Martin Hanzal to put it in front to Vrbata and he rifled it home for a power-play goal.

Just over a minute later, it was 3-0 Phoenix, as some shoddy defensive play allowed the puck to squirt back toward the blue-line. Morris skated in and got all of his weight behind a shot that beat Bryzgalov to the glove side.

Mike Smith was as busy as Bryzgalov in the Phoenix net, as both goalies faced 15 shots apiece in the first period.

The Coyotes kept coming with another goal three minutes into the second period as a shot that was going wide was deftly tipped into Edmonton's net by Ribeiro.

Edmonton finally got on the board with seven minutes left in the second period as Hendricks redirected Ryan Jones's shot past Smith for his first goal in his fourth game as an Oiler since coming over in a trade with Nashville.

The Oilers made it a 4-2 game 1:50 into the third as Perron picked a puck up off the side boards and made a couple of nice moves to get past the Phoenix defenders before lifting a backhand shot top shelf past Smith. It was Perron's team-leading 19th goal of the season.

Edmonton then cut the lead to a single goal eight minutes into the third as Jordan Eberle drew the defence to him before sending a nice backhand pass to a trailing Nugent-Hopkins, who sent a quick shot into the Coyotes net.

The Oilers continued to press and had several good opportunities late in the game but couldn't get the equalizer.

"We talked about after the first that they had the firepower to come back in the game," Vrbata said. "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."

Both teams return to action on Sunday as the Oilers play host to the Nashville Predators and the Coyotes travel to Vancouver to play the Canucks.

Notes: It was the fourth of five games between the two teams, with the Coyotes having won the first three, including a comeback for a 4-3 overtime win in Phoenix on New Year's Eve. The Coyotes entered the game with four straight wins over the Oilers, and having won nine of the last 11 encounters between the two teams overall. They had also won seven of their last eight in Edmonton…Oilers captain Andrew Ference left the game with a head injury and did not return…. Edmonton winger Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a head injury. Fellow Russian Anton Belov also drew back into the lineup to take the place of veteran Nick Schultz... Oilers forward Ales Hemsky remained out with an ankle injury…Coyotes centre Martin Hanzal (lower body) and defenceman David Schlemko (upper body) were both back on the ice for Phoenix after missing Wednesday's game against Calgary.

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