Canucks, Coyotes streaking in different directions
The Vancouver Canucks didn't miss a beat in their first game coming out of the all-star break, moving into sole possession of first place in the NHL with a convincing win.
The Phoenix Coyotes, meanwhile, seemed a bit rusty in their first game in a week.
The Canucks look to win their fourth in a row Wednesday night when they visit a Coyotes team hoping to avoid losing its fifth straight home game (9:30 p.m. ET).
After winning its final two games before the break by a combined score of 9-2, Vancouver (32-10-9) picked up right where it left off Tuesday, beating Pacific Division-leading Dallas 4-1.
Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Ehrhoff each notched power-play goals, while all-star Ryan Kesler had a short-handed score for the Canucks, owners of a seven-point lead atop the Western Conference and a two-point advantage over East-leading Philadelphia.
Vancouver also has a 16-point lead over Minnesota in the Northwest, but Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault doesn't want his team to get too comfortable.
"We're on a game-to-game basis," Vigneault said. "We're happy with the win against a real good opponent."
Special teams have been huge for the Canucks during their three-game winning streak, as they've converted 5 of 13 power-play chances and killed all 14 penalties.
Starting goaltender Roberto Luongo got the night off Tuesday and will look to help Vancouver to its 14th win in 20 games if he gets the call.
Luongo has allowed one goal in winning each of his last two starts — stopping 51 of 53 shots — and is 12-0-5 with a 1.94 goals-against average since his last regulation loss Dec. 5. He is also 7-0-2 with a 2.07 GAA and one shutout in nine road games since the start of December.
This doesn't bode well for the Coyotes, who have been outscored 17-10 in losing four straight games at Jobing.com Arena, their longest slide there since dropping six in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 16, 2009.
Phoenix (25-18-9), which plays six of its next seven in Arizona, was tied for the league's fifth-best home record in 2009-10 at 29-10-2, but is 10-9-5 on home ice this season.
The Coyotes, sixth in the crowded West with 59 points, are returning home following Tuesday's disappointing 5-3 loss at San Jose. Phoenix jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Radim Vrbata, All-Star Keith Yandle and Paul Bissonnette but still ended up losing for the fifth time in seven games.
"We couldn't close them out," said Yandle, whose turnover in San Jose's offensive zone led to the go-ahead goal with 6:05 remaining.
"It was a back-breaker. But the good thing about it is we play again [Wednesday]."
The Coyotes won at Vancouver 3-2 on Nov. 21 in their only meeting this season. Former Canucks forward Taylor Pyatt's second goal of the game broke a 2-all tie at 5:52 of the third period, and Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves.
Bryzgalov, who stopped 33 of 37 shots Tuesday, has been in net for each of the Coyotes' last four home games, posting a 4.05 GAA. He has fared well against Vancouver in Arizona, however, going 3-1-1 with a 1.75 GAA and a shutout in five starts.
Luongo had 25 saves to take the loss in the first meeting, but is still 8-4-1 with a 1.95 GAA and two shutouts in 13 games against the Coyotes since being acquired by the Canucks prior to the 2006-07 season.