VANCOUVER, B.C. – It was probably one of the easiest goals Henrik Sedin has scored in his NHL career, but it became a short-handed backbreaker for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Sedin was virtually handed the puck by Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov during a five-minute Coyote power play, and the gaffe made a huge difference Tuesday in a 4-1 victory for the Vancouver Canucks.
Bryzgalov retrieved the puck behind his net and made a back pass that Sedin easily picked off and tucked in the unguarded goal for a 3-1 lead.
“I was lucky he fanned a little bit on the puck and I was able to pick it up,” said Sedin who added two assists to give him an NHL-best 104 points, three more than Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin.
“I came up and I deked a little right and just took away the (defence) man on the other side.
“He might not be the best puckhandler in the league so I took a chance. It’s not going to happen every game.”
Bryzgalov put the puck right on Sedin’s stick.
“It was a good pass,” Sedin deadpanned. “It was a killer for them.”
The goal came during a shaky first period for Bryzgalov, who had gone 8-1-1 in his previous 10 starts.
Canuck Ryan Kesler was handed a boarding major and game misconduct for checking Derek Morris into the side boards and Radim Vrbata had cut into a 2-0 deficit earlier in the power play.
“It was a dirty hit, obviously, but what do you do?” said Morris who saw Kesler coming toward him.
“It’s part of the game. If I’m a little quicker back to the puck, maybe that doesn’t happen. But I felt like he hit me from behind into the boards.
“I was close enough to the wall that it was just more of my face in the glass.”
Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond started Bryzgalov’s misery by scoring on the Canucks’ first two shots four minutes after the puck dropped.
Daniel Sedin completed the Vancouver attack by directing brother Henrik’s seeing-eye backhand pass under Bryzgalov’s pad in the second period.
Vancouver’s franchise-record 28th home win moved them to within a point of clinching a playoff berth and to within three of second-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
“It’s unbelievable with the team we have here,” Henrik said of the record-setting victory.
“It’s how we got the wins too. We’ve been coming back (from deficits) a lot and we’ve showed a lot of character the whole season.”
The Canucks, 46-26-4, are also seven points ahead of Colorado in their bid for a third Northwest Division title in four years.
The red-hot Coyotes, who could still win the West, lost in regulation for only the second time in 13 games to drop to 47-24-6 and remain four points behind conference-leading San Jose Sharks.
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who has struggled recently, made 32 saves. s
He said his second start since a session with goalie consultant Ian Clark “was mostly straightforward.
“We didn’t give up too much defensively. Come playoff time, these are the type of games we’re going to be involved in. The fact we got four goals is a bonus.”
Several Canucks were double-shifted into extra minutes after Kesler was tossed in the first period.
“Losing a big piece of the puzzle like Kes is never a good thing but guys stepped up and played bigger minutes and bigger roles and found a way to play well defensively,” said Burrows.
His rising slapshot was a career-high 35th goal and the first of Vancouver’s early attempts to elude Bryzgalov.
Raymond scored on a deflection by spinning around and shooting along the ice from the top of the faceoff circle.
“You’d like to see the guys rally around and pick him up,” Coyote coach Dave Tippett said of his goalie. “He’s picked us up a lot of times, but we didn’t find the emotion in the dressing room.”
Shane Doan, who was robbed by a diving Luongo save in the second period, said the Coyotes sagged after Henrik Sedin’s short-handed goal.
“We have to play with a little more emotion,” Doan said.
“Tipps said after the game we were pretty flat. We’re an easy team to play against when we’re not playing hard – and we weren’t playing hard tonight.”
Notes: Daniel Sedin played his 700th NHL game for Vancouver … Canuck defenceman Shane O’Brien was scratched from the lineup and the next two games after showing up late for Monday’s practice … trade deadline addition Andrew Alberts took O’Brien’s spot … Mikael Samuelsson is expected to travel with Vancouver on a two-game California trip … the 30-goal winger hasn’t played since injuring his right shoulder March 16 … the Coyotes have clinched their first playoff berth since 2002 … Canuck winger Steve Bernier has resumed skating after hernia surgery.