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The Phoenix Coyotes know they don't have much more room for error if they hope to reach the postseason.
The Coyotes can make up some ground in Western Conference race Monday when they visit the Vancouver Canucks.
Phoenix (36-31-5) is five points behind Vancouver (36-26-10), which is hanging onto the final playoff spot in the West. The Coyotes are trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002, but have dropped three of their last five.
Following the most recent loss, 5-2 to Edmonton, Phoenix held a 15-minute players-only meeting as it looked to regroup for the stretch run.
"This was the biggest game of the year for us and we got outplayed," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We got beat to loose pucks, they had a little more discipline than we did as a team and they just played a much better hockey game. It's as simple as that."
|The Phoenix Coyotes are just five points behind the Vancouver Canucks for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The two teams play tonight at GM Place. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)|
The loss ended a five-game homestand, but the Coyotes are likely glad to be hitting the road for their next two games. Phoenix owns the league's second-worst home record but is 20-13-2 away from Jobing.com Arena.
"We've got 10 games to go and we're not out of it yet," said forward Shane Doan, who had a goal against the Oilers. "We just made it that much harder. We had to win in Vancouver anyway. I'm not saying this wasn't big because it was. But we had to win anyway."
Mathias Tjarnqvist also scored for the Coyotes, but Ilya Bryzgalov yielded four goals for just the second time in 23 starts. Before Saturday's loss, Bryzgalov had gone 7-4-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average and two shutouts in his previous 11 starts.
One of those shutouts came Thursday, 2-0 against Vancouver. Bryzgalov made 24 saves and Niko Kapanen and Daniel Winnik scored for the Coyotes, who improved to 3-0-1 in their last four games against the Canucks.
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo made 43 saves, but the Canucks managed just 24 shots on goal and went 0-for-5 on the power play.
"I think you have to give credit where credit is due," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "I mean, Phoenix came pretty hard."
Vancouver bounced back with its fourth win in six games Saturday, 4-3 over Dallas. After the Canucks managed only three goals in their previous three games, Vigneault formed a new line of Matt Pettinger, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, and it came through with three goals and six assists.
"We wanted to try something to see if it couldn't kick-start our offense," Vigneault said. "Matt gives the line good speed. Mo (Morrison) and Nasly (Naslund) are really finding themselves."
Morrison was credited with the tiebreaking goal when the puck bounced off his skate and into the net early in the third period.
"It was a roller coaster, but it was a great game for us," center Ryan Kesler said. "We got kind of a grinding goal to win it, but it was an all-around great game."