GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -The road has been a bumpy haul for the Canucks this season and Saturday’s duel in the desert held true to form.
After just two regulation losses in their past 11 games, the Canucks took one in the teeth against the Coyotes losing 5-1.
Ilja Bryzgalov was a wall making 34 saves in support of his Coyotes teammates, who returned the favour with a five-goal explosion – that’s the most the Canucks have allowed since Jan. 28th.
What’s worse, the Canucks squandered a chance to pull within one point of the division leading Flames who have faltered since the trade deadline. Calgary has won just 3-of-8 and suffered a demoralizing 3-2 loss to the Blues Friday night, opening the door for Vancouver.
“In an 82 game schedule, games like this are going to happen,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, “but at the end of the day this was a missed opportunity for us and it was there. Everybody knew about it, but our game wasn’t good enough.”
The loss stalls the Canucks at 85 points, tied with Chicago and just three up on Columbus.
There was little mystery in the loss Saturday. Bryzgalov stole the show at Jobing.com Arena. If it wasn’t for an extra-effort by Alex Burrows in the dying minutes, the Russian keeper wouldn’t hit the room with his fourth shutout of the year.
“It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t get one past their goaltender,” said Vigneault.
“Give Phoenix a lot of credit, they hung in there and obviously they got a bounce or two and they were the better team.”
Daniel Winnik opened the scoring by banking a centering feed in off Mattias Ohlund’s skate in the first. Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, Viktor Tikhonov added three more in the second before Matthew Lombardi tucked a fifth behind Jason LaBarbera in the third.
“There were a lot of bad bounces tonight and unfortunately their first goal was a bad one and we kind of never recovered from that,” said starter Roberto Luongo, who replaced by LaBarbera to start the third. “Then we took a lot of penalties and that kills the momentum a little bit.”
The Canucks took the first four penalties of the game and were behind 3-0 before they caught their breath. The penalty kill finished 6-for-7, but as Luongo was quick to point out, it was the early loss of momentum that did them in.
He really was the difference. Ilja is fast becoming the Canucks kryptonite.
His 2-0 goal really turned the tide. Doan was the clear leader on a young Phoenix team Saturday.
Honestly, didn't really notice Special Ed that much. Must've been a sentimental choice. Boedeker, Sauer, Tikhonov?
"We did not execute, it was that simple," said Burrows, who picked up his 24th of the season. "Once we got behind, it was tough coming back. We missed many shots, and their goalie stopped anything which got through."
It was Phoenix's highest-scoring game since beating Los Angeles 6-3 on Feb. 21 and the four-goal margin was the largest for Phoenix this season.
“I think a game like tonight is really one that you just put behind you. If we look at all the goals maybe just one of them, the third one, was a legit goal. The other ones were off our skate, for one of them I wasn’t even on the ice, so you just put it behind you and move on,” Luongo said.v The most bizarre goal of the night came on a delayed Phoenix hooked penalty to Tikhonov midway through the second period with the Canucks trailing 3-0.
With Luongo on the bench for an extra attacker, Henrik Sedin was poked checked at the line by Tikhonov, who touched the puck inside the Vancouver zone, but did not maintain control. When Vancouver defenseman Shane O'Brien attempted to sweep it out of the Phoenix forward’s reach, he inadvertently swept it back into the vacated Vancouver net.
"That's definitely a first for me," said Tikhonov. "I was actually wondering, 'did that count?' I didn't know to celebrate or not."
Deep in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture, the Coyotes took advantage of a rare national television audience - on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" - to put together a solid 60 minute effort.
"After recent games, we were pretty disgusted with ourselves," said captain Doan, who scored his 27th goal of the season. "It was apparent we made sure that we do not embarrass ourselves. Playing on ("Hockey Night in Canada") was huge. As a Canadian, it's like "Monday Night Football," but bigger."
After the Coyotes failed to score on two early power-play opportunities, Winnik beat Luongo at even strength with 5:55 left in the first period.
Phoenix made it 3-0 with goals in a 2:04 span early in the second.
First, Doan ripped a wrist shot past Luongo at 1:21. The goal was set up on a perfect pass from defenseman Keith Yandle from inside the Phoenix blue line to the Vancouver side of center ice.
Jovanovski followed with his seventh of the season on a power play at 3:25.
Lombardi, a deadline-deal pick-up from Calgary in the Olli Jokinen deal, made a nice move in the third freezing LaBarbera at the top of his crease before sliding in behind the net and tucking the puck just over the line to quash the faintest of Vancouver comeback hopes.
“We haven’t won on the road in our last four [games] and we’re going to get some other opportunities to win on this trip and obviously we’re going to have to play better. I think at the same time, I think we’re 16-3-1 in our last 20 games which is the best record the Canucks have had in their history, so this is not one that we wanted to go this way, but it did so we’ll deal it and move on,” Vigneault said.
Notes: Vigneault said he never saw a goal like Tikhonov's in his career as player or coach. ... Winnik has three goals this season. The other two came in a Feb. 14 game against Calgary. ... Vancouver opened a six-game trip, its second-longest of the season. ... Luongo was replaced with Jason LeBarbera at the start of the third period. ... The attendance was announced at 17,125, giving Phoenix its second sellout of the season.
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