VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Chris Higgins, known for being the consummate team player, decided to get selfish Friday night.
He kicked the puck away from Phoenix center Mike Ribeiro in the Vancouver zone, then raced down the left wing and beat goalie Mike Smith with a quick shot to the far side at 3:41 of overtime to give the Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Coyotes.
“I’m not passing up that shot in overtime,” Higgins said.
Jason Garrison and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver. Antoine Vermette and David Moss responded for Phoenix only 2:21 apart in the third period.
The Canucks squeaked out the win after squandering a 2-0 lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
“It’s lesson learned for sitting back in the third period,” Higgins said. “It came back to bite us. I don’t think we played in their end enough in the third, weren’t good on the forecheck all night, but we battled back.”
Roberto Luongo made 37 saves for the win, and Smith stopped 29 shots in defeat.
The Canucks earned their fourth victory in five games, while the Coyotes were handed their third loss in four outings.
“I am happy we won, but I can’t stand the way we won,” Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. “I thought they played harder than us in the third period, and their sticks were better, and we have to get out of this situation of not finishing games, because we are going nowhere until we do.”
Higgins did not have much sympathy for reporters who were scrambling to rewrite their stories as a result of the Coyotes’ comeback, with one suggesting the Canucks were “killing” them on deadline.
“We’re killing my grandma,” Higgins said. “She’s back in New York and she stays up for these games, so it’s almost 1 o’clock for her. And I feel bad for her.”
Both teams produced 10 shots in a scoreless first period. Luongo stopped Moss on a rush up the middle in the first five minutes, and Daniel Sedin almost scored while flat on his stomach near the Phoenix net.
Garrison opened the scoring on a power play at 1:26 of the second period when he wired in a slap shot from the point less than a minute after Oliver Ekman-Larson took a holding penalty.
Vancouver’s power play has scored in seven consecutive games.
Henrik Sedin put the Canucks ahead 2-0 in the final minute of the second. The play started when Ryan Stanton came out of the penalty box, snared the puck and launched a 3-on-2 break with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
After botching a pass to Daniel Sedin just inside the Coyotes’ blue line, Stanton made a nice recovery and retrieved the puck off a Phoenix defenseman. Stanton then quickly sent it to Daniel Sedin, who set up his brother for a one-timer that beat Smith cleanly.
Through much of the first 40 minutes, the crowd serenaded Luongo with a “Loooo” chant almost every time he made a save. But the Coyotes never quit working and were finally rewarded with a pair of quick goals.
“We were focusing on getting pucks in in the third,” Moss said. “That should have been the way we were playing the whole game.”
Vermette pulled the Coyotes within a goal midway through the period when he beat Luongo with a high slap shot from just inside the blue line after the Canucks got lackadaisical with the puck while trying to move it out of their zone. The goal came moments after Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen missed an open net at the other end.
About two minutes later, Moss, standing at the top of Luongo’s crease, made it 2-all when he punched in a rebound of Rob Klinkhammer’s shot from the side of the net.
“We have more to learn as a club as far as mindset and situational play,” Tortorella said. “I just don’t think we’re a good situational team right now, and that onus falls on me as a coach. I need to continue to teach that until it turns into an instinct for us.”
NOTES: Before the game, a moment of silence was held for South African president Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95. … Coyotes captain Shane Doan sat out due to illness. Defenseman Derek Morris missed the game after leaving the club to attend to a family matter. … Andrew Alberts replaced defenseman Alex Edler in Vancouver’s lineup. Edler is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury.