GLENDALE, Ariz. – A talented bunch, the Vancouver Canucks have a tendency to try for the spectacular play instead of the straightforward one.
Now that they’ve started to make the game simple—ugly?—the wins are starting to pile up.
Jordan Schroeder scored midway through the third period, Cory Schneider stopped 33 shots and the Canucks grinded out a 2-1 win over the struggling Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
“(The effort) has been there for a long time, working hard, but sometimes maybe trying to make it too cute, too complicated, and you bring it back to basics,” Schneider said. “It wasn’t necessarily pretty all the time, a Picasso, but it was effective.”
Schneider won his first game in nearly three weeks against St. Louis on Tuesday and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances in the third period, including a semi breakaway by Martin Hanzal with less than two minutes left.
He allowed a tying goal to Antoine Vermette in the third period, but Schroeder put the Canucks back up by punching in a rebound after a redirect by Jannik Hansen trickled past Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera, who replaced injured starter Mike Smith to start the period.
Christopher Tanev also scored for Vancouver, which has won four of six.
“It was kind of an ugly road win and that’s what we need,” Schroeder said. “Schneids played great and it was a good team win.”
Phoenix can’t find a way to win.
The Coyotes got off to another sluggish start, shot too many pucks directly at Schneider and committed penalties at inopportune times. They also were the antitheses of the keep-it-simple Canucks at times, passing up good scoring chances by making an extra pass or trying something fancy.
Frustrated by a losing streak that stretched to five games, the Coyotes held a team meeting that lasted more than 20 minutes.
“It’s unacceptable to each individual guy,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “There’s absolutely no reason we can’t do better.”
The Canucks have been hit hard by injuries, losing centre Manny Malhotra for the season to an eye injury and centre Ryan Kesler since the start of March with shoulder and wrist injuries.
The list has gotten longer recently.
Left wing Chris Higgins was out against the Coyotes after tweaking his back, and wingers Steve Pinizzotto (illness) and Zack Kassian (back) didn’t make the trip to the desert. Left wing David Booth also missed his third straight game with a leg injury, leaving Vancouver with 11 healthy forwards.
Vancouver got the first goal when Tanev converted a wrister from the slot in the first period after taking a pass from Mason Raymond and waiting for two colliding players in front to clear.
The Canucks appeared to lose another forward in the second period when Daniel Sedin left for the locker room after a hard collision with Smith, but he returned later in the period and helped Vancouver pull out the victory.
“If you’re going to win, you need different types of contributions,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
The defensive-minded Coyotes have struggled to score for years, but their latest can’t-put-it-in-the-net run was ugly even for them.
Starting with a 3-0 loss at St. Louis on March 14, Phoenix went 245 minutes, 32 seconds and 133 straight shots without scoring a goal. The Coyotes were shut out three straight games for the first time in the franchise’s 33-year NHL history and four straight games on the road, the first time that’s happened since the Oakland Seals went goal-less in four straight in 1967-68.
Phoenix finally saw a glimmer of hope in its last game, even though it was a loss.
The Coyotes were sparked by Doan, who scored two goals in the third period and finished with 13 hits and 11 shots, the first NHL player to have nine-or-more shots and 11-or-more hits in a game.
Phoenix generated some good opportunities early against Vancouver, but had trouble getting shots off with the Canucks doing a good job of getting their sticks in the way. Anything that got on net, Schneider was there to turn away.
The Coyotes also couldn’t get out of their own way.
Vermette negated most of a penalty by Vancouver’s Kevin Bieska in the second period by getting called for hooking 40 seconds later. The Coyotes also failed to take full advantage of a 5-minute major on Alexander Edler—for charging Smith—after Doan and Hanzal were called for consecutive penalties.
“Those are penalties you can’t have when your margin of error is so slim,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Phoenix managed to tie it in the third when Vermette punched in a rebound of a hard shot by Radim Vrbata caromed off Schneider and the crossbar.
The Coyotes continued to pressure Vancouver, but couldn’t get anything past Schneider. Phoenix has scored three goals in five games.
“As a group, we have to be better,” Doan said.
NOTES: Vermette’s goal was Phoenix’s first on the power play in four games. … The Canucks are 11-4-4 when scoring first. … Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin played his 611th consecutive game. Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester is the only active player with more at 616.