- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Penguins‘ spot in the postseason is assured. The Phoenix Coyotes are living much more dangerously.

For long stretches during Phoenix’s 3-2 win on Tuesday night, it certainly looked like the other way around.

Pouncing on a series of sloppy mistakes by the suddenly erratic Penguins, the Coyotes picked up two vital points in the chase for the eighth-seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Thomas Greiss stopped 23 shots - including all 15 he faced over the final two periods - and received plenty of help as Phoenix rebounded a night after losing starting goaltender Mike Smith indefinitely with a right leg injury in a loss to the New York Rangers on Monday.

David Moss, Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes, who never trailed while dropping the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins to just 6-6-2 since the Olympic break.

“It gives confidence that if you can win in Pittsburgh you can win anywhere,” Phoenix forward Shane Doan said.

Jussi Jokinen and Taylor Pyatt scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves, but the Penguins failed to clinch a playoff berth and looked lifeless at times without center Evgeni Malkin, who is out 2-3 weeks after hurting his foot in a loss to St. Louis on Sunday. While he’s expected by the end of the regular season, his absence is just the latest setback in a season in which Pittsburgh has lost over 400 man games due to injuries.

It didn’t seem to bother the Penguins as they built a seemingly insurmountable division lead. Coach Dan Bylsma isn’t sure now is the time to start throwing around blame.

“I don’t think injuries had anything to do with today or what you saw on the ice,” he said.

More disconcerting for Pittsburgh is its lack of focus. The Penguins held a brief players only meeting after the game and cancelled a scheduled practice on Wednesday.

“I don’t think there’s anyone feeling sorry for us, but that still doesn’t allow us not to have the right type of effort and work ethic,” center Sidney Crosby said.

Phoenix’s play had a little bit to do with it.

If the Coyotes were rattled by the loss of their franchise goaltender, it didn’t exactly show. Greiss has been effective when spelling Smith this season, though he wasn’t sharp while allowing the Rangers to steal two points Monday by rallying for an overtime victory after he replaced Smith with 7:32 left in regulation and the Coyotes holding a one-goal lead.

No matter. Despite a short turnaround in the midst of a three-game road trip that could shape the final weeks of the regular season, Greiss kept the Penguins in check.

“I thought we did a good job of being close to one another,” Moss said. “It seemed like if there was a breakdown, there was support. If they had a chance, (Greiss) made a huge save.”

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