VANCOUVER – You didn't have to spend long in the respective locker rooms to figure out how Monday's shootout between the Canucks and Coyotes finished. You didn't even have to make it into the Phoenix room.
While Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo was making jokes despite giving up a bad goal to tie it late, surprise Phoenix starter Jason LaBarbera's stick lay smashed into two pieces in the tunnel leading to the other room.
Ryan Kesler scored the winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout as the Canucks overcame a sloppy collapse in the final minutes to end the Coyotes' five-game win streak with a 2-1 victory at Rogers Arena.
LaBarbera made 12 saves in the second period to help the Coyotes earn a valuable point in the Western Conference playoff race. But that didn't matter to a goalie that hasn't won since Dec. 21.
"It would have been nice if I would have made a save in the shootout," said an agitated LaBarbera, who made 21 saves through overtime, but was beaten on four of six in the skills competition. "That would have helped a little."
Meanwhile in the other room, where the Canucks' improved to 7-0-3 in their last 10 games, Luongo was able to laugh off a late gaffe he took total blame for.
"Why win 1-0 when you can win a shootout?" Luongo joked.
It's hard to imagine Luongo smiling had it gone the other way. Not after blowing the lead on Keith Yandle's strange, soft goal with 2:06 left, and three more in the shootout – in the first, third and fifth rounds – before Kesler snapped one past the blocker of LaBarbera and Luongo got a pad on Boyd Gordon at the other end.
It was a wild ending to game that was anything but – 12 shootout shots almost matched the 13 combined shots in the third period and overtime -- before the late goal, which came after an icing and a failed clearing attempt that ended up on Yandle's stick at the point. The Coyotes defenseman quickly threw the puck at the net, and seemed as surprised as anyone when it caught Luongo unaware and on his goal line, and went in low blocker side to tie the game.
Luongo wasn't blaming any screens or deflections.
"I was a little bit upset at myself," said Luongo. "I was caught deep and it kind of dropped a little bit and went off my stick. It was totally my fault."
It cost him the shutout, but not the win, which appeared to secure after David Booth's second period goal. The Canucks were 22-0-0 when leading after two periods, and the Coyotes were 1-17-1 when trailing after 40 minutes. Instead, despite only seven Phoenix shots and one scoring chance in the third period, Vancouver headed to extra time for the 10th time in the last 13 games.
Booth added another goal in the fifth round of the shootout, and Luongo finished with 23 saves as the Canucks ended the Coyotes’ season-best streak, improved to 7-0-3 the last 10 games, and moved within two points of idle Detroit atop spot in the West.
"It wasn't the prettiest, but at the end of the day we'll take the two points," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Right now, the fact we're playing a lot of these tight-checking games and going into overtime, I think is good for our group. That's what playoff hockey is all about -- it's about tight-checking, tight hockey games and we're certainly getting our fair share of that right now."
At the other end of the conference's playoff picture, Phoenix added a point to its slim cushion in eighth place, extending its lead over Calgary and Colorado to three points for the final playoff spot.
"We recognize how important that point is," said captain Shane Doan, who missed on a chance to end it in the fourth round. "But at the same time, it's disappointing to not get that extra point. We let it sip away."
LaBarbera finished with 21 saves, beaten only after Kesler's dump-in deflected off the outstretched hand of Kyle Chipchura, stranding Yandle, and allowing Booth to cut in behind the flat-footed Coyotes' defenseman and through the crease before tucking the puck just inside the far post. For Booth, who also scored the tying goal in a 3-2 shootout loss in Calgary on Saturday night, it was the 10th goal of the season, and his fifth goal and ninth point in just 11 games since returning after missing six weeks with a knee sprain.
"I feel strong on the puck again and well balanced out there," said Booth, who struggled early after being acquired from Florida in an early season trade. "It's fun coming to the rink when the team's winning and you're playing well. It was a process, but it's really exciting to be a Canuck now and I think it's showing."
Coming off a 3-0-1 road trip, the Canucks failed to register a shot the first 9:31 despite consecutive chances for the League's top power play, including a brief 5-on-3, and were outshot 9-4 in the first period. The hardest part for LaBarbera, a starting for the first time in a month and 12 games ahead of NHL First Star of the Week Mike Smith, was staying awake, though he did need a tough left shoulder save off Cody Hodgson after he undressed Yandle to get in alone.
LaBarbera had to be better in the second period as the Canucks outshot Phoenix 13-6. The best came on a shorthanded 3-on-2 rush surrendered by the Coyotes' 30th-ranked power play, but LaBarbera got a shoulder on Alexander Edler's high blast and threw out the left pad to deny Jannik Hansen on the rebound.
It may not have ended well for the hometown goalie, but it impressed his coach.
"We hoped he would give us a good effort … he's played well in this building before," said Dave Tippett, who cited the need for Smith to rest and work with goalie coach Sean Burke over the next four days for the decision to start LaBarbera. "He was solid. He stopped the ones he had to. He managed to give us a point."
It's one the Coyotes may need before the season ends, even if the goalie was more concerned Monday night with the one that got away.