VANCOUVER – It’s back to the drawing board for coach Alain Vigneault and the Vancouver Canucks.
Some line juggling and a new power-play alignment didn’t take long to pay dividends.
But the Canucks couldn’t capitalize on early success Wednesday, blew a 2-0 lead and lost 5-4 to the Phoenix Coyotes.
“We scored four goals, let in five, you tell me,” defenceman Kevin Bieksa, on the ice for all three of Phoenix’s even-strength goals, said when asked if the changes helped.
“It doesn’t matter what the lines are. We had the same personnel basically in the lineup so we still had to go out and perform. No matter who you’re playing with.”
It looked like the Canucks were ready to perform after losing three of their last four games, all at home.
Alex Burrows scored two minutes 18 seconds after the opening faceoff and the power play got its first goal in six games at 9:39 of the opening period.
The Canucks scored again with the man advantage in the second period to tie the game 3-3.
But while Vancouver’s struggling power play went two-for-three, Phoenix, with the worst power play in the NHL, scored on both of its chances.
The playoff-hungry Coyotes also converted odd-man rushes against the careless Canucks.
Vancouver started well.
Burrows was parked on the doorstep of goalie Mike Smith when Jannik Hansen, who did most of the grunt work on the play, shovelled a pass in front for the Canuck winger to snap home.
It was only his second goal in 11 games but 24th of the season.
The new-look power play made it 2-0 with Kesler blasting a shot from the faceoff circle over the glove of Smith who had snared another Kesler rocket moments earlier.
The second power-play unit also scored as David Booth drilled Chris Higgins’ pass from behind the net past Smith, who faced 43 shots.
Henrik Sedin, who assisted on Dan Hamhuis’ fourth goal to avoid matching a career-worst nine-game pointless streak, said the changes and two days away from the rink brought energy.
“We moved the puck well, had a good set-up, got to rebounds,” he said of the power play. “A lot of second effort.
“We felt fresh tonight. We did a lot of good things.”
Vigneault moved Burrows down to the third line but brought his hand-eye co-ordination and puck-tipping ability back to Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the power play.
Kesler manned one point on the first power-play unit, which ended a one-for-24 slump, with Alex Edler on the other.
Vigneault, a three-time coach of the year finalist, began shuffling his lineup in the third period of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers.
But instead of challenging for the NHL and Western Conference lead, the Canucks still trail the St. Louis Blues by six points.
Burrows spent most of the night on the third line with Sammy Pahlsson and Hansen.
Mason Raymond, with two goals in 19 games, took his speed to the top line and the twins, vacating his spot on the Pahlsson line.
“I thought (Burrows) played exceptional on that line tonight,” Raymond said. “I thought they were effective.”
Vigneault, who also put all three of his defence pairings through a blender, agreed.
“They spent a lot of time in the other team’s end,” the coach said.
“When we used them in our own end on face-offs they did a good job getting the puck out. I’m pleased with how that line settled in tonight.”
Daniel Sedin, who also assisted on Hamhuis’s goal to avoid a pointless sixth straight game for the first time in eight years, said the power play came together well.
“A lot of good looks and a lot of good shots,” he said. “Sometimes it’s going to be one of those games where they get the bounces.
“We’ve got to take the positives, cut down on those mistakes and I like our chances.”
The one constant in the Canuck lineup was goalie Roberto Luongo who has only two wins in his last eight starts and has allowed three or more goals in his last four outings.
Luongo, in the second season of a US$64-million, 12-year deal, thought he had plenty of offence to work with but it came at the expense of defensive miscues.
“I thought we generated a lot of offence which is good (but) we have to pay a patient game. That’s the way we’re going to win.
“Sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice some offence.”
He said he can’t control the creation of odd-man rushes in front of him.
“But I can control how I played them,” he said. “I would have liked to have made more saves.
“Obviously we’re not playing the type of hockey we want to be playing and we’ve got 12 games to correct it.”
Notes: It was the first time Luongo has allowed three or more goals in four straight starts since the beginning of the season … Edler and usual blue-line partner Salo were both minus-five in their previous five games … the Canucks play seven of their final 12 games at home … their current seven-game homestand ends Saturday against Columbus, the NHL’s worst team.