By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks played a back-and-forth, give-and-take, playoff-like game on Wednesday night at Jobing.com Arena that Phoenix ended up winning, 4-3, after a six-round shootout.
Defenseman Adrian Aucoin scored the decisive goal in the shootout and seconds later goalie Ilya Bryzgalov deflected a shot by Vancouver’s Mason Raymond to secure Phoenix’s 40th victory of the season. Only one other Coyotes team, the 2001-02 club, also earned 40 wins since the franchise moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996. Not coincidentally, that was the last Coyotes team to reach the NHL playoffs.
Lee Stempniak scored two goals for the Coyotes (40-22-5) before the shootout and one during it, and Bryzgalov made 36 saves in 65 minutes. He stopped only three of six shots in the shootout, but it was one more save than Vancouver backup goalie Andrew Raycroft made and Phoenix received the extra point.
Aucoin, who is 3 for 3 in shootouts this season, took a quick tip from Coyotes backup goalie Jason LaBarbera and put a shot over Raycroft’s glove.
The excitement of the shootout and the victory helped disguise a mediocre performance by the Coyotes, who didn’t protect the puck enough in their zone and got little production from their forwards aside from Stempniak and his linemates -- Vernon Fiddler (two assists) and Taylor Pyatt (one goal, one assist).
“We were very fortunate to get any points out of it let alone two,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We're playing against a team that played last night and they dictated the play. We need to get on the road. Too much home cooking right now.”
Henrik Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Ehrhoff scored for the Canucks (41-23-3), who finished their record-setting 14-game trip with an 8-5-1 record.
“I thought everything considered we did a real good job,” Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault said. “It's just too bad we didn't get to close it in the shootout.”
Stempniak gave Phoenix a 3-2 lead 35 seconds into the third period with a slick backhanded shot from between the circles. Phoenix’s lead was short-lived, however, because Ehrhoff easily put a shot past an out-of-position Bryzgalov 59 seconds later.
Stempniak’s first goal came at 10:16 of the first period. Using Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts as a screen, Stempniak wristed a shot past Raycroft from the left circle.
Vancouver scored a goal in the last minute of the first period and in the first minute of the second period to grab a 2-1 lead.
Pyatt, who played for Vancouver last season, beat Raycroft with a rebound at 9:39 of the second period for his 100th NHL goal. It was his first goal in 20 games.
With the score tied 3-3 early in the third period, Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov reached behind him to stop a shot by Vancouver's Alex Burrows that had gotten through him. Replay officials looked at the play and confirmed that Bryzgalov had kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
• Forward Lee Stempniak has notched three goals and an assist in the three games he has played since coming to the Coyotes on March 3 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. "You've got to love a guy who cares that much, that he comes in and plays so hard to endear himself to his teammates," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "He's a gritty player."
• Defenseman Adrian Aucoin and his teammates still are finding humor in the fact that he has become such a successful shootout performer this season. "Ladies and gentlemen, Mariano Rivera!" defenseman Keith Yandle jokingly proclaimed as Aucoin walked into the dressing room to field questions from reporters.
• Forward Daniel Winnik delivered a game-high six hits.
• Center Robert Lang missed his second consecutive game because of a lower-body injury.
• Phoenix scratched Paul Bissonnette, Robert Lang, Sami Lepisto and Mathieu Schneider. Vancouver scratched Nolan Baumgartner and Darcy Hordichuk.
• The Coyotes play 11 of their next 15 games on the road, including the next four, all at Southeast Division teams.
"It was a good game because it was tight, but honestly I don’t think we played that well. We gave them a lot of room. It seemed like they had the puck a lot more than we did and that’s something we can’t let happen."
"I think we didn’t play up to our standard, but good teams find ways to get points and we did that. At the same time, we know we have to be better."
"Obviously, we're looking forward to going home. I think it's a five-game homestand, but I'm not even sure so that tells you how long it's been. It's a disappointing ending (to the extended road trip), but it will be nice to finally get in front of our home fans."
• Jan. 7, 2010: VAN 4, PHX 0
• March 30, 2010:
• Dec. 29, 2009: PHX 3, VAN 2 (SO)
• March 10, 2010: PHX 4, VAN 3 (SO)
1 - 0 PHX
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 VAN
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 PHX