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Game 31: Salvage rights

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The last time the Canucks opened a home stand they suffered a heartbreaking defeat that set the tone for disappointing stretch of games played in front of their own fans. They were just fortunate enough to avoid having a similar start to this home stand.

Chris Higgins scored his eighth of the season with just 79 seconds left in overtime to lift the Canucks to a 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Friday night at Rogers Arena in a game the Canucks had led 2-0 with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.

The win improved the Canucks' season record to 16-10-5 and allowed them to pull into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference albeit the Coyotes still hold two games in hand.

Higgins' overtime marker, an unassisted goal on a partial breakaway, helped the Canucks salvage a win after it looked like they were about to fritter away a sure victory.

Jason Garrison and Henrik Sedin had staked the Canucks to a two-goal lead with second period markers but, just when it looked like Vancouver might cruise to a victory, their recent penchant for giving up goals in quick, successive fashion reared its ugly head as Antoine Vermette and David Moss found the back of the net for the Coyotes in a span of 2:21 just past the midway mark of the third period to pull the Coyotes even.

Roberto Luongo was a busy man in the Vancouver crease equaling a personal season-high for saves by turning aside 37 of 39 shots in the victory. His Coyotes' counterpart and fellow Olympic team contender, Mike Smith, made 29 saves on 32 shots in the overtime defeat.

The Canucks continue their five-game home stand on Sunday when they host the Colorado Avalanche and their new head coach, Patrick Roy.

For the first time in 44 days, Andrew Alberts suited up in a hockey game. Prior to Friday, he had not seen game action since October 24 in New Jersey. He had three minutes of ice-time after the first period which was more than he had in his previous two games played combined. He'd finish the night with 6:33 of ice-time and one shot along with an even-rating.

PARTY LIKE ITS 1999: Friday's contest featured three of the top five goal-scoring leaders from the 1999 Entry Draft class – Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Phoenix's Radim Vrbata. Only Henrik managed to add to his totals on this night with his eighth of the season and the 190th of his NHL career. He is now just 10 goals shy of becoming the seventh Canuck in team history to score 200-or-more goals with the franchise.

NOTES AND NUMBERS: Ryan Kesler saw his two-game goal streak and three-game point streak come to an end... Jason Garrison extended his point streak to three games (1-4-5). His goal was his first at Rogers Arena since the home opener back on October 5 against Edmonton... The 39 shots surrendered by the Canucks equaled a season-high (November 28 at Ottawa)... Dan Hamhuis led all players in the game in ice-time with 29:36... The Coyotes played this game without team captain Shane Doan (illness) and Derek Morris (family matter)... The Canucks extended their streak of consecutive games with a power play goal scored to seven. The last time they scored power play goals in seven straight games was from November 7 to 22, 2005.

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