While the Phoenix Coyotes have been playing well lately despite the absence of injured goaltender Mike Smith, their previous performance seemed uncharacteristic for a team clinging to the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
It was nothing compared to the Winnipeg Jets’ epic collapse their last time out, though.
Phoenix looks to bounce back by beating visiting Winnipeg for the first time in four meetings Tuesday night.
Smith went down with a right knee injury in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on March 24, but the Coyotes (36-27-12) won their next two with backup Thomas Greiss in net.
Phoenix had gone 5-1-1 over its previous seven before falling 3-1 to Minnesota on Saturday, giving up each goal in the third period. The Coyotes also went 24:28 without a shot on goal.
"We can’t let them come out in the third and let them score two and an empty-net goal," said Mikkel Boedker, who scored on the power play in the first period. "That’s not how we do it around here, and obviously this was a good opportunity for us to jump up to seventh, but that’s the way it goes."
The Coyotes are now five points behind the Wild for seventh in the West after Minnesota’s 3-2 win over Los Angeles on Monday, and they’re one point ahead of ninth-place Dallas, which has one game in hand.
Smith reportedly will be out for at least another week, meaning the onus falls on Greiss for the time being to backstop Phoenix in its pursuit of the playoffs.
"It’s game by game, but you’ve got to treat it with the (playoff) mindset of you have to prepare for a game, get the result, put it behind you and move on to the next one," coach Dave Tippett told the team’s official website. "It’s going to take a minimum of four (wins over the final seven games). That’s just the reality of where we are."
Phoenix has lost both meetings with Winnipeg this season, with Smith in net for each. Blake Wheeler scored in both contests for the Jets, who will try to recover after falling apart in Monday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Anaheim.
Winnipeg (33-33-10) dropped to 1-2-1 on a road trip that ends with this contest after blowing a 4-0 lead it held up until the late stages of the second period. The Jets gave up the tying goal with 22.7 seconds left in the third, then the winner 16 seconds into OT.
They aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention, but sit eight points behind the Coyotes with six games left.
"You’re just awfully disappointed because you like so much of what you saw," coach Paul Maurice said. "And then to have it go away from you like that, it’s frustrating. It’s tough to lose a game like that."
Ondrej Pavelec made 31 saves but remained in net for each goal during the collapse. His defense didn’t give him much help, either.
"It’s frustrating," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "There’s not a whole lot to say right now after a game like that. It’s shock."
Al Montoya, who made five appearances for Phoenix as a rookie in 2008-09, likely will get the call in this contest. He’s 3-3-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average over his last six starts and has never faced his former team.