Ryan Kesler scores shootout winner as Canucks defeat Phoenix 2-1

VANCOUVER – David Booth is looking more like the player the Vancouver Canucks thought they were getting in an early season trade.

He scored in regulation time and counted again in the shootout Monday as the Canucks downed the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in yet another game that went beyond 60 minutes.

It was the fifth time Booth has scored in 11 games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out six weeks. He has also contributed four assists in that span.

“I feel strong on the puck again and well-balanced out there,”said Booth, who’s from the Detroit area like linemate Ryan Kesler.

“It’s fun coming to the rink when the team’s winning and you’re playing well.

“I’m really enjoying it. It was a process but it’s really exciting to be a Canuck now and I think it’s showing.”

Booth, 27, who is signed through 2014-15, was the key figure in the trade that sent Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson to the Florida Panthers.

He scored a career-high 31 goals for Florida in 2008-09 but missed 54 games the following season because of two concussions.

Booth opened the scoring in the second period when Kesler, who scored the decisive goal in the sixth round of the shootout, chipped the puck ahead and the speedy Booth skated on to it.

He shielded the puck from defender Keith Yandle and slid it past goalie Jason LaBarbera and inside the far post for his 10th goal of the season.

It wasn’t the only time he tried that move during the game, as Kesler kept putting pucks where he could skate on to them.

“If I tried it three or four times tonight and one of them works, I’ll take it,”Booth said.

“All three times (Kesler) made the play. He’s seeing the ice really well right now and that really helps me out when he can move the puck and just put it in good areas.

“Most people don’t understand how good a hockey sense that is … where I can just use my speed and get those spots. It’s really fun playing with him.”

Kesler was the fourth Canuck shooter to beat LaBarbera when he deked the goalie and fired a low shot past him on the stick side.

Vancouver closed to within two points of the idle Detroit Red Wings atop the West and have a game in hand.

The Canucks (35-15-6) halted a season-high five-game Phoenix win streak to improve to 7-0-3 in their last 10 games.

It was the eighth time in 10 games that the Canucks were taken past regulation by an opponent and their fourth shootout win in seven tries during that span.

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“We’re comfortable in those games,”said Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa.“In the shootout we’ve been getting better results at least.

“We played a pretty complete game. I don’t think we gave them a whole lot … we didn’t generate a whole lot of offence ourselves but most important we didn’t give up a lot.”

They did give up a late icing to the Coyotes and Yandle tied the game after the ensuing defensive zone faceoff with a shot that seemed to freeze goaltender Roberto Luongo.

“I was caught deep and it kind of dropped a little bit and went off my stick,”said Luongo who faced only seven shots in the final period and finished with 23 saves.“It was totally my fault.”

He was two minutes six seconds from his 58th career shutout.

“Why win 1-0 when you can win a shootout?”Luongo quipped.

The Coyotes (27-21-9) moved three points up on Calgary and Colorado in the battle for the conference’s final playoff spot.

LaBarbera, the Coyotes’backup goalie who lives in suburban Burnaby, finished with 21 saves but made only two stops in the shootout, missing a chance for his first win since December.

“It hasn’t been an easy couple months for me, still haven’t won in a while,”said LaBarbera who slammed his stick on the crossbar after Kesler’s shootout winner.

“It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun, but you got to find a way to fight through it and give the guys a chance to win. I felt pretty good about my game tonight, obviously other than the end.”

LaBarbera had won four of his previous five starts against the Canucks.

“We hoped he would give us a good effort,”said Coach Dave Tippett.

“He’s played well in this building before. He was solid. He stopped the ones he had to. He managed to give us a point.”

The Coyotes started the game without defenceman Derek Morris who took the morning skate but complained of a sore groin.

They finished it without forward Taylor Pyatt who was hammered into the side boards by Canuck defenceman Aaron Rome. Tippett said Pyatt“seems all right.”

Notes: Phoenix won both meetings here last season … LaBarbera played nine games for Vancouver in 2008-09 … winger Chris Higgins skated with Canuck teammates Monday morning after missing five games because of an adverse reaction to antibiotics prescribed for a bacterial infection … Higgins didn’t play against Phoenix and neither did defenceman Keith Ballard who is suffering from a whiplash injury that’s causing headaches … Ballard didn’t skate Monday … winger Dale Weise also remained out of games but was back on the ice after missing two starts since blocking a shot.