LaBarbera made 43 saves and Vrbata had a hat trick as the Coyotes spoiled Fan Appreciation Night for a sellout crowd at Honda Center by beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 on Saturday.
Though the game meant nothing to the Ducks, who had already locked up the Pacific Division title and will face the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they bombarded LaBarbera for most of the night. Phoenix’s backup goaltender made a handful of fine stops in the final minute after the Ducks pulled goaltender Viktor Fasth for an extra attacker, but they couldn't get the equalizer, and Antoine Vermette iced the win by hitting the empty net with less than two seconds to play.
Phoenix (21-18-9) missed the playoffs one year after advancing to the Western Conference Finals. It's the first time in four seasons under Head Coach Dave Tippett that the Coyotes haven't made the postseason.
“Tonight just reaffirms how we have to play in order to win,” Tippett said. “I know this was a game that doesn't mean anything in the standings, but we expect our team to play with a certain character and grit and do whatever it takes to win.”
Vrbata knocked in a rebound 8:14 into the game, but the Ducks tied it two minutes later when Teemu Selanne roofed a pass from Patrick Maroon.
“It was a fun night,” Selanne said. “We lost, but I think we were still battling all the way through until the end. Overall, I think everybody's happy. Nobody got hurt and we move on to the real games.”
Ex-Duck Kyle Chipchura's shot trickled behind Fasth and into the net at 17:36 to put Phoenix ahead 2-1. Anaheim tied it again when defenseman Francois Beauchemin fired through a screen and beat LaBarbera for a power-play goal 14 seconds into the second period.
Vrbata gave the Coyotes their third lead 6:46 into the middle period when he fired home a fat rebound into an open net. He completed his hat trick by scoring a shorthanded goal 7:43 into the third period; that goal proved to be the game-winner when Bobby Ryan scored midway through the period.
“It’s not the situation that we wanted, but it was the same for everybody once the season started,” Vrbata said of not making the playoffs after an abbreviated 48-game season. “Everybody knew it was going to be a short season and every point would be vital. We just didn’t get enough. “
The Ducks finished 30-12-6, second in the Western Conference.
FIVE FOR PHOENIX
1. Forward Radim Vrbata notched three goals for his fourth career hat trick. He finished with 12 goals on the season. He scored all but one of those on the road. He also had an assist to tie a career-high for points in a game with four.
2. Goalie Jason LaBarbera made a season-high 43 saves to earn his fourth win of the season. LaBarbera posted a 3-1-1 record in his last five starts of the season.
3.Defenseman Keith Yandle notched two assists to finish the season with a team-high 30 points. He is one of two defensemen to lead their respective teams in scoring this season, along with Nashville's Shea Weber (27).
4. Forward Kyle Chipchura scored his fifth goal of the season and won six out of seven face-offs in 8:03 of ice time.