VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Lawson Crouse scored a tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and the Arizona Coyotes tightened the playoff race in the Western Conference with a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
“We’re a desperate group and we’re playing some desperate hockey right now,” said Crouse, who scored his 15th goal of the year by tipping in an Oliver Ekman-Larsson point shot at 12:39 of the third.
“We held our composure. We just got pucks to the net and stayed around the net and they went in for us.”
The teams combined for five goals and two lead changes in a wild third period.
“That’s a good burst of energy for our group,” Crouse said.
Crouse and Nick Schmaltz scored goals 2:29 apart for Arizona. Carl Soderberg had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who have won two in a row and three out of four. Oliver Ekman-Larsson added an empty-net goal and an assist.
Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson scored less than three minutes apart for the Canucks, who lost their fourth consecutive game.
“We talked about this road trip, that we need these points, they are huge, chasing these teams in the standings,” said Schmaltz, who scored his first goal in 15 games.
“It was kind of do or die and I thought we battled hard. We were just able to make that one more play.”
The win moves the Coyotes into a three-way tie with Vancouver and Winnipeg in points (74) for the two wild-card playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper made 36 saves. Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko, making his fourth start for the injured Jacob Markstrom, stopped 36 shots.
“You could sense the urgency right from the start,” said Kuemper. “I thought we weathered the storm well and just stayed patient with our game and didn’t really go away from it regardless of what was happening out there.”
Head coach Rick Tocchet said it was a team win.
“It was one of those game you’ve got to do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “Everybody kind of contributed tonight. It’s a nice win.”
Vancouver captain Bo Horvat said there’s no excuse for giving up late leads at this time of the year.
“Honestly, it’s unacceptable on our part,” he said. “We have to be better in that area, especially down the stretch.
“We’re done making excuses for ourselves. We have to bear down when we’re up and protect leads.”
Toffoli tied the game 1-1 at 3:19 on a power play. He took a pass at the side of the net from J.T. Miller and lifted a shot into a tight space over Kuemper’s shoulder for his 23rd goal of the season.
Pearson made it 2-1 when he knocked in the rebound of a Jake Virtanen shot at 6:16.
Schmaltz tied the game for Arizona at 10:10. He tipped a shot that Demko stopped, but slipped in the rebound.
Crouse put the Coyotes ahead at 12:29 by tipping in an Ekman-Larsson point shot.
The Coyotes led 1-0 after 40 minutes on the strength of a strange first-period goal.
With the Coyotes on a power play, Soderberg ran into Canuck defenseman Oscar Fantenberg behind the net. The puck flipped into the air and over Demko’s shoulder into the net at 7:27.
Demko later made a big leg save on a Taylor Hall shot and stopped Phil Kessel on a partial breakaway.
Kuemper had a busy second period, stopping Virtanen on a breakaway, blocking a Toffoli drive from the face-off circle, and stopping a tip on a power play.
There were also some anxious moments when Demko ventured out of his net and was knocked down in a collision with Hall and Canuck defenseman Chris Tanev. Demko looked to be in pain but stayed in the game after the training staff examined his left leg.
Canuck coach Travis Green said a couple of bad bounces cost his team.
“This one will sting for a while and that’s all right,” he said. “When you are playing games late in the year like this that matter, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t win.”
NOTES: Canuck rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes dressed despite missing the Wednesday morning skate and skating by himself on Tuesday. … Vancouver defenseman Tyler Myers didn’t dress after missing practice Tuesday but skating Wednesday morning. … Oscar Fantenberg was in the lineup to replace Myers. … Coyote defenseman Jakob Chychrun is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury but could join the team later on their three-game trip. … Vancouver has recalled defenseman Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield under emergency conditions from their AHL farm team in Utica.
Coyotes: At Calgary Flames on Friday.
Canucks: Host Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
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