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Coyotes bid season adieu with meaningless 3-1 win over Canucks

The Coyotes beat the Canucks 3-1 on Sunday, bringing a conclusion to vastly different regular seasons.

Derek Morris scored the go-ahead goal three seconds into a power play at 12:12 of the first period. Jeremy Roenick added what might be his final NHL goal, into an empty net, with 21.2 seconds to play.

Roenick and goalie Curtis Joseph both drew standing ovations from the crowd after the final goal.

Roenick, whose goal was his 11th of the season, has said he will decide this summer whether to retire from the game, but he sounded after the game as if he was ready to give it another try.

"I think I want to play," he said. "These last couple of weeks have been good. Maybe I can stick it out a little longer."

Bill Thomas also scored for Phoenix. Alex Burrows replied for Vancouver.

Despite the victory, the Coyotes finished with their worst point total - 67 - since the team moved from Canada.

Vancouver, on the other hand, had clinched the Northwest Division title with a victory at San Jose on Saturday. The Canucks, who set franchise records for wins and points, start the playoffs at home against Dallas on Wednesday.

"Since Christmas, we obviously have been one of the best teams in the NHL," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "One of the reasons I think we have been one of the best teams is we've played hard at both ends of the rink. That's what we're going to have to do starting Wednesday."

There wasn't a lot of hard play from Vancouver on Sunday after its emotional, important victory the previous day.

"Today was a game that everybody wanted to get through, to get over with," Canucks left-wing Markus Naslund said.

The Coyotes finished last in the Pacific Division for the third year in a row, the last two with Wayne Gretzky as coach. They were last in the Western Conference for the first time since the franchise moved from Winnipeg.

The futility fuelled speculation that general manager Mike Barnett, Gretzky's good friend and former agent, might be fired in the coming days.

"I think that we're all under the gun right now," Gretzky said. "We want results. Yesterday is when you want results. Listen, Mike Barnett's one of the best people you're ever going to meet in your life. We're all going to meet this week, and other than that, I don't have any answers for you."

Although he said "no individual is bigger than the organization," Gretzky, who owns a piece of the team, is expected back as coach.

"I want to," he said. "I love it. It's a great place."

Gretzky said his greatest disappointment came in January, when the Coyotes decided the playoffs were out of reach. That triggered a decision to trade away several veteran players for youngsters and draft picks.

The decision to go young resulted in predictable results, and Gretzky cautioned that more patience will be necessary.

"We're a young team right now," Gretzky said. "Unless you're going to go out and sign seven free agents, it's going to be time consuming. It's as simple as that. That's where we're at right now, and everybody has to understand that."

Still, he understands that fans are weary of watching the team lose.

"It's not fun not winning, especially in this city," Gretzky said. "It's a good hockey city. It's a good sports city. As I've said before, you're playing in a city that has the most exciting team in professional sports - the Suns. The expectations go up, and that's the way it should be."

The Coyotes killed a four-minute penalty against Nick Boynton for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct, then scored their first goal moments later. Thomas knocked in a pass from Steve Reinprecht from just outside the left crease and it was 1-0 with 5:45 left in the first period.

Vancouver tied it briefly when Burrows beat Joseph with a shot to the Phoenix goalie's left with 10:29 left in the first. Phoenix scored three seconds into a power play after Vancouver's Henrik Sedin drew two minutes for hooking.

After the faceoff, Morris' slapshot from just outside the blue-line sailed into the net to the right of goalie Dany Sabourin to put the Coyotes up 2-1 at 12:12 of the first.

Sabourin started for the first time since March 8, also against Phoenix, giving star Roberto Luongo the day off.

Notes: Before the game, Phoenix named Shane Doan its MVP for the season. ... Luongo's 47 victories in goal ties for second-most in NHL history. The record of 48 was set by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur this season. ... Joseph, 39, is an unrestricted free agent but says he wants to return to the Coyotes next season. ... Phoenix defenceman Keith Ballard left the game with a hip injury early in the third period.


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