VAN – 2 PHX – 1 F/SO
The Coyotes were on the road Monday night and took their 5-game winning streak to Vancouver to face the Northwest Division leading Canucks. In a game where neither team could maintain an edge, Phoenix went toe-to-toe and found a way to earn a point against one of the league’s best teams
Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, who was awarded NHL Player of the Week last week, was given a rest and backup goalie Jason LaBarbera got the start. LaBarbera, the former Canuck, was 4-2 in his previous 6 starts against Vancouver including a 3-0 record in games played at Rogers Arena. Despite not having a win since December 21st, LaBarbera played very well stopping 21 of 22 shots through 3 periods plus overtime.
“He was solid,” head coach Dave Tippett said of LaBarbera. “He’s played well in this building before… He stopped the ones he had to (and) managed to give us a point.”
At the other end, former All Star Roberto Luongo was equally sharp making 23 saves of his own, but almost gave away the game in the final minutes. With only 2 minutes left in the 3rd and the Canucks leading 1-0, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle intercepted a clearing pass at the Vancouver blue line and dumped it harmlessly towards the Canucks net. Luongo was caught off guard and to the surprise of both teams plus the sellout crowd, the puck found its way to the back of the net tying the game at 1.
“I was caught deep and it kind of dropped a little bit and went off my stick. It was totally my fault,” Luongo told reporters after the game.
As good as both goalies looked in regulation and overtime (minus the one gaffe by Luongo), they looked porous in the shootout. LaBarbera was only able to stop 2 of 6 shots, getting beat twice through the 5-hole and twice on straight shots without dekes. His shattered stick in the tunnel leading to the visitors’ locker room was a clear indication of his frustration.
“It would have been nice if I would have made a save in the shootout,” an angry LaBarbera said in the locker room after the game. “That would have helped a little.”
Luongo wasn’t much better stopping only 2 of his first 5 shots before stopping Boyd Gordon for the victory, but his spirits were higher in the home locker room. When asked about the soft goal he let in at the end of regulation, he joked, “Why win 1-0 when you can win a shootout?”
For the Coyotes, they can take a lot of positives away from this game. For starters, they earned a point while giving Mike Smith a well-deserved rest after he started 16 of the last 17 games. Their defense also continued to play strongly allowing only 4 shots in the 1st period and 2 shots in the 3rd. This from a high-powered Canucks offense that won the Western Conference last year. Their penalty kill unit didn’t allow a goal on 3 chances for Vancouver including a short 5-on-3. Phoenix’s forechecking was also the best its been all season. Down 1-0 throughout the 3rd period, the Coyotes we consistently causing turnovers in the offensive zone and extending play. It was that hard work plus a never-say-die attitude for 60 full minutes that caused the turnover that led to the Coyotes’ lone goal. Continued play like that in the offensive zone will serve the team very well down the stretch and in the playoffs.
The winning streak may be over, but this has to be considered one of the better losses of the year. The Coyotes still have some momentum going into a very important 4-game stretch. 2 of which are against division rival Los Angles, who the Coyotes trail by just 2 points in the standings. The other 2 games are against Dallas and Calgary, both of who are nipping at Phoenix’s heels. At the end of the season, this is going to be a week to look back on.
Taylor Pyatt left the game early in the 2nd period with an upper body injury. There is no timetable for his return
Ray Whitney scored in the shootout, but his point-scoring streak is snapped at 8 games
The Coyotes play Vancouver 2 more times this season, including next Tuesday, February 28th at Jobing.com Arena
About the Author
Written by Doug Podkowsky
I have a lifelong passion for hockey. My earliest memories include watching the great Islanders teams of the early 80s win the Stanley Cup. I learned how to skate when I learned how to walk. While I am no longer in my prime, physically and on the ice, I am still a student of the game and I love to offer my expertise to fans, players, kids, and anyone else who has a passion for this great game