Canucks end marathon road trip with SO loss
On Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks came up with a new definition of the term "marathon men."
On the second half of a back-to-back stretch, which was the final game of an NHL-record 14-game road trip, the Canucks went into extra time against the Phoenix Coyotes. And then they went into extra-extra time. And then extra-extra-extra time.
Finally, when the sixth shootout round came and went, the Canucks were at last going to get to go home — but with one point less than they wanted.
That's because the Coyotes' surprise sniper Adrian Aucoin scored the shootout winner as Phoenix outlasted the Vancouver road warriors 4-3.
The 36-year-old defenceman has three shootout winners this season.
"I got a little information from [Coyotes backup goalie Jason LaBarbera]," said Aucoin. "I guess he dropped his glove a little bit and gave me a little room up there. I don't really like to think too much but maybe I should start."
Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov saw Mason Raymond shoot high on the Canucks' final attempt to finish the contest, which put an end to an intense game as the Canucks tried to nab their ninth win on the mammoth road swing, which was bisected by the Vancouver Olympics.
Lee Stempniak scored two goals while Taylor Pyatt had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who have become the surprise of the NHL season.
The Coyotes (40-22-5) are fourth in the Western Conference and fifth overall in the NHL standings, only several months removed from a bitter ownership struggle that saw Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie try to wrest the team from the NHL and move it to southwestern Ontario.
Much of the credit can be given to coach-of-the-year frontrunner Dave Tippett, who took the reins of the club when Wayne Gretzky resigned in the summer, and to the improved play of Bryzgalov, who turned made 36 saves Wednesday as Vancouver outshot Phoenix 39-34.
"We were very fortunate to get any points out of it let alone two," 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."
Even with the loss, the Canucks (41-23-3) passed their road test with flying colours, going 8-5-1 during the trip and regaining top spot in the Northwest Division in the process, putting them on solid footing heading into the home stretch of the season.
"I thought everything considered, we did a real good job," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's just too bad we didn't get to close it in the shootout."
Vancouver's Mikael Samuelsson, who had a hat-trick in the come-from-behind 6-4 win against Colorado a day earlier, scored another goal Wednesday and added an assist. Henrik Sedin added to his point total with a goal and an assist. He sits second behind Alex Ovechkin for the NHL scoring lead.
Christian Ehrhoff scored the other Canuck goal.
Backup Andrew Raycroft gave Roberto Luongo the night off in Vancouver's crease, and stopped 31 shots as his record dropped to 7-4-0 on the season. Though he lost the game, Raycroft made one of the saves of the season when he stopped Stempniak 1 ½ minutes into the game.
After Raycroft turned away a Derek Morris shot, the puck squirted to Stempniak. With his back to the play, Raycroft dove across the net and stopped Stempniak's shot with his paddle at the goal-line.
Stempniak would still open the scoring at 10:16 of the first,, but Sedin tied it up at 19:14.
Samuelsson gave Vancouver its first lead 36 seconds into the second period, but Pyatt replied at 9:39. Stempniak scored to make it 3-2 Phoenix 35 seconds into the third before Ehrhoff made the score even again one minute later.
On Saturday, Vancouver gets to see GM Place for the first time since Jan. 27 as the Canucks host Ottawa on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET). Phoenix starts a four-game road trip in Carolina on Saturday.
With files from The Associated Press