Photo Credit: Getty Images & AP Photo/Richard Lam
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
Vancouver - Roberto Luongo
On Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes dropped their final game of the season on Canadian soil, falling to the Vancouver Canucks by the score of 4-3, despite a two-goal performance by forward Bill Thomas.
The Coyotes and Canucks made it clear from the drop of the puck that Thursday's contest was going to be a hard fought battle and a constant struggle to gain the upper hand. Vancouver made the first move when their offensive rush was whistled dead due to an offsides call, but one Canuck forward waited and then released a shot on goal that caught goaltender Curtis Joseph in the mask.
The Coyotes let they objections to the late shot be know shortly thereafter when Phoenix forward Josh Gratton dropped the gloves with Vancouver's Jeff Cowan. At the same time, Coyotes defenseman Nick Boynton also incurred his first penalty of the night when he responded to a late hit with a punch of his own. The end result was a Canucks power play due to the penalty to Boynton.
Just 21-seconds into the Vancouver power play, one of the newest members of the Coyotes, Niko Kapanen, took his first penalty with the club when he was called for tripping, giving the Canucks an extended two-man advantage.
The Coyotes would successfully kill off the remainder of Boynton's penalty, but shortly after doing so gave up the first goal of the night. On the play, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin carried the puck around the back of the Phoenix net and into the slot where he release a wrist shot that cleared the glove of Joseph and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Despite surrendering the early goal, Phoenix battled back and evened the score at 1-1 midway through the period when a shot by captain Shane Doan, ricocheted off the boards behind the Canucks net and out to the left face-off circle; allowing a streaking Bill Thomas to blast a slap shot past netminder Roberto Luongo for his first goal of the season.
As the period continued, the clubs alternated trips to the penalty box, but neither team was able to take full advantage of the extra attacker as the period entered it's final minutes with the score still tied at 1-1.
During the final minute of the first, the Canucks generated a pair of scoring chances from point-blank range, but Joseph was on top of his game, turning aside everything thrown his way to keep the game tied after one period of action.
Through the first three minutes of the second period, the Coyotes took a trio of shots on goal while at the same time, keeping the Canucks from registering one. However, Luongo was able to keep his body between the Phoenix's shots and the goal to preserve the 1-1 tie.
At 7:15 of the second, the Coyotes went back on the power play when Vancouver's Jan Bulis was sent to the box for tripping after sending Phoenix forward Steven Reinprecht to the ice in the neutral zone. Unfortunately, the Canucks' Jeff Cowan was able to force a turnover at the Vancouver blueline by Phoenix defenseman Travis Roche, pick up the lose puck and race the length of the ice before snapping a wrist shot over the glove of Joseph for a shorthanded goal. Cowan's goal was his first of the year and gave Vancouver back a one-goal lead.
Phoenix quickly put the shorthanded goal behind them and went to work on the remaining 1:19 of power play time on the penalty to Bulis. Fortunately, the Coyotes were able to even the score at the nine-minute mark when Yanick Lehoux, dished a pass to the front of the Vancouver net where Bill Thomas was able to stuff it past Luongo for his second goal of the game, tying the contest at 2-2.
With just under five minutes to play in the stanza, Daniel Sedin nearly recorded his second goal of the game when he fired a wrist shot from the slot, but "Cujo" was able to get a piece of it and send the shot into the corner where Phoenix quickly cleared the zone.
The Coyotes did receive some bad news late in the second when they learned that Owen Nolan, who had gone to the locker room with a shoulder injury, would not return. Still, Phoenix was able to hold their ground through the remainder of the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie heading into the final period.
The Coyotes took their first lead of the game at 2:54 of the third when a pass from the corner by Steven Reinprecht, was one-timed in the slot by Shane Doan ad drilled through the legs of Luongo. Doan's goal was his team-leading 21st of the season and second point of the night.
Phoenix's lead would be short-lived as forward bill Thomas took a holding penalty at 5:26 of the period and just 20-seconds into the third, Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the evening when his tipped a shot from his brother Henrik, past Joseph to tie the game at 3-3.
Just over seven minutes into the third, the Coyotes found themselves shorthanded again when Fredrik Sjostrom was called for holding. However, the Canucks would have no chance to re-take the lead as Phoenix's penalty-killing unit did an outstanding job to keep the puck away from the net and allow Sjostrom to return to the ice with the game still tied at three.
Vancouver demonstrated just how dominant they could be when they controlled the play inside the Coyotes zone for nearly two consecutive minutes midway through the third period. However, "Cujo" remained in control stopping every shot thrown his way to keep the game tied entering the final minutes of the third.
With 4:14 to play in regulation, the Canucks regained the one-goal lead when Markus Naslund tapped a cross-ice pass through the legs of Joseph for his 21st goal of the season.
The Coyotes tried to even the score late by pulling Joseph from the nets in favor of the extra attacker, but the Canucks defense and the play of Luongo preserved the one-goal lead as Phoenix fell to Vancouver by the final score of 4-3.