GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Andrew Gordon arrived in Arizona from the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves late Thursday morning, he saw plenty of familiar faces in a Vancouver dressing room made over thanks to a rash of injuries to Canucks forwards.
"It was kind of like a reunion," Gordon said with a smile after his Vancouver debut. "That makes it easier."
So does winning. And it was another of the recent call-ups, winger Jordan Schroeder, who made the difference for Vancouver, knocking in a loose puck in the crease with 10:07 left in regulation to give the Canucks a 2-1 win against the reeling Phoenix Coyotes.
With five forwards out of the lineup – Zack Kassian and Chris Higgins were the latest to go down, both with back problems – the Canucks called up Gordon and shifted defenseman Keith Ballard up to a wing on a line with Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise. The makeshift lineup had just enough to hand the Coyotes their sixth straight loss (0-5-1) as Phoenix slid deeper out of a Western Conference playoff spot -- they are two points behind eighth-place San Jose but have played two more games.
Phoenix's Jason LaBarbera, playing the third period after starter Mike Smith was wiped out by Alexander Edler's hit late in the second, lost Edler's shot from the point when it was deflected downward by Vancouver's Jannik Hansen. The puck rolled between the goaltender's skates as he was standing up, and he turned just in time to see Schroeder backhand his third goal of the season into a wide-open net.
"Once I saw it sitting on the goal line, my eyes lit up. I was just hoping they weren't going to call a high stick [on Hansen] or anything," said Schroeder, who was recalled from the Wolves three days ago. "It was kind of an ugly road win, but that's what we need. It was a good team win."
Cory Schneider made 33 saves, including big ones on Keith Yandle and Lauri Korpikoski in the third period to preserve the lead and notch his eighth win of the season. The Canucks are now 4-0-3 in their last seven trips to Arizona, and there was plenty of blue and green in the sellout crowd of 17,220 at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes have failed to score a goal in the first two periods of all five of their losses and held a 25-minute, players-only meeting after the game. Smith, who was still being evaluated by doctors, was unavailable for comment by captain Shane Doan spoke for the team.
"We haven't lost five games in a row here in the in the last four years, and it's unacceptable to each individual guy," Doan said. "The thing that makes our team good is when every single guy is good. When every single guy is good, we have a chance to win every single night.
"Individually, every single guy can be better. The only way it has worked here is because as a whole, we've been good. It's not working because we're not good enough. We know what it takes. We all say the right things and we do the right things when it matters in the third period. But we're not doing it in the first period, when the game starts. When's the last time we've scored a goal in the first period? It's ridiculous."
Coach Dave Tippett said Phoenix's shot count was deceiving and more offensive zone penalties were killers. The Coyotes have gone to the box 13 more times than their opponents during the last seven games.
"Our execution around the net was poor. We hit the goalie's crest more than any team I've seen in a long time," Tippett said. "The margin for error is so slim when you're not scoring enough. There's effort there, but we're just not doing enough to win – with our legs, hands and our mind."
Chris Tanev scored his second goal of the season in the first period for Vancouver and Antoine Vermette tied it for Phoenix 2:26 into the third. But that was it for the Coyotes, who have scored just three goals during their five-game slide – all of them in the third period.
Phoenix outhit the Canucks 24-4 in the first period, but the Canucks played a strong period and scored the only goal. Mason Raymond hit Tanev with a pass at the top of the circles and Taney beat Smith high to the stick side at 6:32.
The second period was scoreless but began and ended with big hits on the Phoenix goalie. First Daniel Sedin crashed the Coyotes net, leaving Smith sprawled on the ice and Sedin with blood gushing from his nose. Then at 18:17, with Smith playing the puck behind his net, Edler steamed in and caught Smith in the head with an elbow – drawing a five-minute major for charging.
Smith finished the period but was unable to return for the third.
Martin Hanzal shaved two minutes off the long power play with a retaliatory roughing call and Doan was called for hooking in the attacking zone to cut the power play time to 1:51 early in the third. But that was enough time for the Coyotes to tie it.
Radim Vrbata whacked a slap shot that beat Schneider but hit the crossbar. With Schneider down and out, the puck landed at the right post and Vermette stuffed it home. Vermette's seventh goal of the season snapped an 0-for-13 power-play drought for the Coyotes and was only their sixth in their last 47 tries with the man advantage. Vermette has 16 points in 20 career games against the Canucks.
That was it until Schroeder found his present sitting behind LaBarbera.