VANCOUVER – Ed Jovanovski didn’t get mad Friday night. Instead, he helped the Phoenix Coyotes get even.
Jovanovski’s decision not to fight Vancouver tough guy Jeff Cowan late in the second period proved to be the turning point as the Coyotes came back to beat the Canucks 4-3 before a sellout crowd at General Motors Place.
Cowan took a double-minor for holding after taking exception to a hard hit into the boards from the Phoenix rearguard. Jovanovski and Keith Yandle promptly scored 10 seconds apart in the final 13 seconds of the middle frame to turn a 1-0 deficit into an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
“I knew it was tight game and I knew it would get us on the power play,” said Jovanovski after coming back to haunt his former Canuck teammates. “You’ve got to show some discipline.”
It was the sixth win in the past seven games for coach Wayne Gretzky’s Coyotes, who improved to 23-19-1 while posting their 15th win in 24 road games.
The loss dropped Vancouver (24-16-4) into a tie for first place in the Northwest Division with Calgary after the Flames lost in a shootout to the New York Islanders.
Peter Mueller and Niko Kapanen, with the eventual winner 3:29 into the third period, also scored for the Coyotes, who went two-for-five on the power play while outshooting Vancouver 38-20.
Taylor Pyatt’s second goal of the game at 11:30 of the third reduced Vancouver’s deficit to 4-3 after Ryan Kesler counted a shorthanded marker only 38 seconds into the final stanza while Cowan was still in the penalty box. But the Canucks couldn’t recover in time from Cowan’s wild antics.
“I know what he’s out there for,” said Jovanovski was plagued by groin and back injuries the past two seasons. “He’s a very tough kid, but we all know my history of the last couple of years with my injuries. I’m not going to fight him and break my hand.”
Cowan was contrite and vowed to heed the lesson in the future.
“It was a bad penalty and I’ll take responsibility and learn from it,” said Cowan.
The Canuck winger completely lost his composure after he pushed Jovanovski down and then ended up in a waltz with him as Coyote captain Shane Doan counselled his teammate not to fight.
“I was a little surprised,” said Cowan. “He went down pretty early when I went over to him the first time. I thought he probably should have taken a diving penalty.” Canuck coach Alain Vigneault was startled, too by his player’s actions. He benched Cowan for the rest of the game.
“It’s not a matter of me being angry,” said Vigneault, vowing to evaluate Cowan and all other Canucks. “It’s a matter of a coach and teammates being able to trust players in different situations.”
The Coyotes received a two-man advantage late in the second period as Canuck winger Jeff Cowan received a foolish double-minor for holding Jovanovski as he took exception to a hard body check by the Phoenix defenceman and then tried to lure him into a fight at 18:09. Only six seconds after Cowan was sent off, Vancouver winger Alex Burrows received a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass.
With only 12.8 seconds left in the middle session, Jovanovski put a high wrist shot over Canucks goaltender Curtis Sanford, who received a rare start at home as No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo was given the night off. Then, with the teams still playing five-on-three, Yandle put another high shot behind Sanford who made his first start at home as with only 2.8 seconds left in the middle session.
“For us to let them come back 10 seconds later and do it again was hard,” said Sanford. “Obviously, you like to have all the goals back, but to go into the dressing room down by two instead of one puts us in a bad spot.”
Centre Kris Beech made his Canucks debut after being claimed off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It did not take the Sicamous, B.C., native, a former seventh overall draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, long to make an impact.
He was tripped by Jovanovski, giving the Canucks their first power play. After Kesler reduced Vancouver’s deficit to 3-2 early in the third period as he fired in a drop pass from Burrows, while Cowan were still shorthanded, Kapanen gave Phoenix a 4-2 advantage at 3:29 as he put in a goalmouth pass from Shane Doan following a giveaway by Beech in the Vancouver zone.
Pyatt drew the Canucks within a goal about eight minutes later as he fired in Henrik Sedin’s pass from behind the net. But the Canucks could not get any closer as Bryzgalov, pulled midway through a loss to Edmonton a night earlier, was steady.
Notes: For the second time this week, the Canucks recalled defenceman Nathan McIver from Manitoba of the AHL on Friday. McIver was recalled Tuesday when it looked like rearguard Alex Edler would be sidelined against the New York Islanders because of back spasms. But Edler was able to play and McIver was promptly sent back down. This time, McIver played while Lukas Krajicek sat out. … To make room for McIver and Beech on the roster, the Canucks demoted centre Jason Jaffray to Manitoba. … Vancouver veteran Trevor Linden was a healthy scratch.