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Bieksa's OT goal lifts Canucks past Coyotes

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Mike Sullivan couldn't think of any other way to sum up a wild win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday night.

"A bizarre game," Sullivan said twice after the win.

Fittingly, it ended with a crazy goal.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa scored his second of the game by banging in his own rebound while sprawling through the air 2:15 into overtime, and the Canucks recovered from blowing a pair of two-goal leads to beat the Coyotes 5-4 at Rogers Arena.

"It wasn't your typical game,” Bieksa said.

It wasn't your typical ending either.

After the Canucks failed to take advantage of an overtime power play, Bieksa was stopped by Mike Smith when Brad Richardson sent him in alone from the slot, but somehow managed to chip the rebound up and in as he was went flying over Smith's outstretched pad.

"We've been struggling to score lately, so let's take some positive out of it," Bieksa said. "We put five in, some guys got on the score sheet and we found a way to win."

Vancouver had scored eight goals in its past seven games, and failed to score more than two in a game during that stretch. But they came in bunches Sunday, with Bieksa and Jannik Hansen scoring 44 seconds apart midway through the first period, and Chris Higgins and Zac Dalpe scoring 42 seconds apart late in the second.

"It was kind of a sloppy game and with the weird goals it was kind of a strange game," said Higgins, who also had two assists, including Bieksa's winner. "It's nice to be on the winning side of those games and nice to score a bunch of goals; it's been tough to come by recently."

Vancouver's rare offensive outburst almost wasn't enough.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan tied the game on a breakaway 5:24 into the third period, and Antoine Vermette only needed one shot to score the other three goals -- one at even strength, one shorthanded and one on the power play -- to help Phoenix earn a valuable point.

The Coyotes pulled within three points of the Minnesota Wild for the final wild card berth in the Western Conference, and trails Vancouver by five points. Phoenix has played one fewer game than the Canucks, and two less than the Wild. But coach Dave Tippett thought his team should have had two on Sunday, and Doan agreed.

"There's no moral victories in professional sports," said Doan, who set up Vermette's power-play goal.

That was the only one Vermette shot into the Vancouver net; Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo put the first one in with his stick, and Ryan Kesler knocked the shorthanded goal in past Luongo.

"I thought it was a good sign," Vermette said of the lucky breaks. "Usually you are talking about bounces, you get good chances and the puck doesn't go in for you. It's a sign that things are going to turn around."

Canada’s Olympic team hopes it turns around for both goalies.

"You score four goals, you should win," said Smith, who made 20 saves. "That's up to me to make more saves but it was kind of a weird game, not a lot of shots on net and the puck was doing some funky things. It wasn't a fun one to play in as a goalie."

Luongo, who stopped 29 shots, agreed.

"Definitely a weird one," Luongo said. "It was one of those games where it felt like the puck was bouncing in from everywhere. The good thing is we got the win."

Despite the Canucks' scoring woes, the teams combined for three goals 62 seconds midway through the first period, and another three 2:06 apart late in the second.

Bieksa started the first binge by beating a screened Smith with a fluttering half-slap shot from the point 10:31 into the game. Hansen doubled the lead by one-timing a 3-on-2 pass through Smith's legs, but the Coyotes got it back with a strange goal on the next shift.

David Moss sent Vermette alone in tight with a beautiful saucer pass from the blue line, but Vermette lost control of the puck as he tried to cut back and it was heading wide of the net before Luongo reached back and knocked it in off the heel of his goal stick.

Phoenix had a goal called back 1:32 into the second period when a review ruled Kyle Chipchura used a distinct kicking motion to knock a rebound past Luongo in a scramble. But Vermette got even lucky again to tie it 2-2 midway through the period.

Stopped on a 2-on-2 shorthanded rush, Vermette was trying to coral the rebound in the slot when a backchecking Kesler knocked it off his stick and into the net.

Vancouver regained the lead on Higgins deflection between the legs of Smith with 3:01 left in the second period, and Dalpe doubled it by banging in his own rebound on a 2-on-1 with defenseman Jason Garrison.

But Vermette pulled the Coyotes within one by lifting a power play rebound over Luongo with 55 seconds left in the period for his third career hat trick.

"Free hat trick," Luongo said. "At least he buried the last one to make it at least somewhat justifiable. It was just one of those nights where it felt like the puck was finding ways in, but that's going to happen from time to time."

It continued when Doan was sent in alone early in the third period and appeared to lose the puck as he tried to deke, only to see it roll through Luongo's legs anyway.

"I think there might have been one goal that was actually shot in the net," said Sullivan, who was coaching his third game while Canucks coach John Tortorella serves a six-game, 15-day suspension. "It seemed like everything was a deflection off a skate, off a stick, off something, so it was just one of those games for both sides."

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