Coyotes snap 10-game losing streak, beat Canucks in shootout
The smile and look of relief on the face of Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan spoke volumes.
Doan could live with missing a number of scoring chances of his own, because the Coyotes put an end to their longest losing streak -- 10 games -- since moving to the desert from Winnipeg in 1996 with a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Sam Gagner scored the lone goal in the shootout and Mike Smith kept the Canucks off the scoreboard in the shootout after the Coyotes allowed two third-period goals to relinquish a 2-0 lead. Smith finished with 32 saves for Arizona, which hadn't won since Feb. 9 at Chicago and hadn't earned a victory at home since Jan. 8 against Winnipeg.
"It's big to finally win a game at home -- win a game, period," said Doan, the only player who has been with the franchise since the move.
The Coyotes revamped their roster with a flurry of trades during the losing streak. With little for fans to cheer about this season, the team donned throwback jerseys and welcomed back a few former stars Thursday night, and the nostalgia wasn't lost on anyone.
"It adds some distraction to not winning many games," coach Dave Tippett said. "The players were excited about it and it was great to see the fans excited about it and to see the old players come back. I thought our guys wore those sweaters proud and played well in the tradition of the old Coyotes."
Tobias Rieder and B.J. Crombeen scored in regulation for the Coyotes, who have four straight wins at home over the Canucks, dating to last season.
Vancouver's Eddie Lack stopped six shots in overtime, but couldn't get to Gagner's hard forehand in the shootout. Lack had 33 saves, and Chris Higgins and Radim Vrbata had goals for the Canucks.
Vrbata's score came with 53 seconds left in regulation, forcing the overtime period. The former Coyotes right wing was cheered during a video tribute in the first period after spending the past five seasons with Arizona. But he stung his former team with the tying goal when his shot went through traffic in front of Smith, who slowed the puck before it found its way into the net.
Doan had a breakaway chance, but his shot was stopped by Lack 28 seconds into overtime. Lack also saved a breakaway from Rieder 30 seconds later.
Vrbata couldn't get his shootout try past Smith, clanging it off the post, and Smith got Higgins to miss to end the game.
"We had some chances, but Smith played really well for them," Vrbata said.
Crombeen gave the Coyotes a two-goal lead at 2:31 of the third period. Higgins put in a backhand after collecting a pass from Jannik Hansen at 12:21 of the third to cut Vancouver's deficit to 2-1.
Rieder opened the scoring at 19 minutes of the first period, stuffing in a high shot from Gagner that bounced off the end boards and landed in front of the net. It was Rieder's 10th goal of the season.
The Coyotes' penalty-kill unit stymied the Canucks for six minutes in the first period, and Arizona could have taken the lead sooner had Doan put in a short-handed backhand opportunity during one Vancouver's power plays.
NOTES: The Coyotes sported their original black Kachina-pattern sweaters they wore from 1996-2003. It was the first time the Coyotes have worn a throwback jersey in an NHL game. ... Fans also received Jeremy Roenick bobbleheads, and the Coyotes original dropped the ceremonial first puck with former teammates Nikolai Khabibulin, Greg Adams, Craig Janney, Keith Carney and Sean Burke. "It's one of those cool things," Roenick said of the old multicolored coyote logo. "It's probably so ugly that it's beautiful. It grew on me." ... This was the third of five meetings between the teams this season, with the previous two being lopsided wins for each side in Canada. ... Doan is tied for 39th on the NHL's career list for games played, and is second among active players in career games.