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Canucks blow third-period lead, beat Coyotes in OT

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER - Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella will take the win, even if he didn't exactly enjoy how his team got it.

Chris Higgins scored on a 2-on-1 break with 1:19 left in overtime and the Canucks recovered from blowing a two-goal lead in the third period to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 on Friday night.

"I am happy we won but I can't stand the way we won," Tortorella said.

Blown leads at Rogers Arena have been a consistent theme lately for the Canucks, who went ahead 2-0 after Jason Garrison scored a power-play goal early in the second period and Henrik Sedin converted a 3-on-2 rush after killing a penalty with 52.1 seconds left before intermission.

But instead of building on the lead, the Canucks sat back -- and paid the price. Phoenix outshot them 18-8 in the third period, tying the game when Antoine Vermette and David Moss scored just over two minutes apart.

The single point from forcing overtime kept Phoenix tied with the Canucks in eighth place in the Western Conference. But the Coyotes, who were without captain Shane Doan, have played two fewer games than Vancouver.

"We found a way to win the game, but I thought we [gave] away a point to a team we are chasing," Tortorella said. "We have to get out of this situation of not finishing games because we are going nowhere until we do."

The Canucks also blew four leads in the third period while only winning one game during a recent six-game home stand. Instead of continuing that trend, the Canucks recovered this time to build on a just completed 3-1-0 road trip.

"It was déjà vu all over again from the previous homestand," said Luongo, who finished with 37 saves. "You can't have that happen, but this is a good win as far as being able to respond after they tied the game and get a clutch win."

Higgins got the game-winner by racing down the left wing with Brad Richardson and firing a shot under the glove of goalie Mike Smith, who had turned Richardson away after a 2-on-0 pass late in regulation.

"I'm not passing up that shot in overtime," Higgins said of his first goal in eight games. "[Smith] is a big guy, moves well, but he definitely plays deep so you have to be shooting over the pads. Sometimes it doesn't look like there is space but when he goes down there is."

Smith finished with 29 saves for the Coyotes, who have two wins in eight games (2-4-2) after losing the middle pair of a four-game road trip that wraps up against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

"There were some parts of our game I thought were all right," coach Dave Tippett said. "We're trying to defend better, and we're giving up less shots and less chances against. But going into the trip, this game is about winning and getting points. We got only got three of six and for where we are, we need a better percentage than that."

Phoenix was hoping to have top-four defenseman Zbynek Michalek back from a lower-body injury, but he missed a ninth straight game. Two other Coyotes regulars were late scratches: Doan had the flu and defenseman Derek Morris had to attend to a family matter.

Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson took consolation in earning a point after being behind, but lamented the deficit.

"We came back, so that's a positive thing," he said. "But we have to be ready from the beginning. We have to find ways to win games."

Garrison opened the scoring with a power-play one-timer from the point past Smith's blocker 1:26 into the second period. It was the seventh straight game the Canucks' 25th-ranked power play has scored, and their top-rated penalty kill helped build on the lead.

After holding the Coyotes' seventh-ranked power play to one shot for the second time, Vancouver doubled its lead when defenseman Ryan Stanton skated out of the penalty box and into a 3-on-2 rush with Daniel and Henrik Sedin in the final minute of the period. Stanton lost the puck inside the blue line, then got it back in time to drop a pass to Daniel. He slid it across to Henrik, who one-timed a slap shot from the right circle off the glove of Smith and into the net.

The momentum of the shot left Henrik lying on the ice as the puck went in, appropriate since the play started with a barrel-roll shot block by the Canucks' captain on the penalty kill at the other end.

But Vancouver couldn't carry any momentum into the third.

Like so many of the recent collapses at home, the Canucks gave up a goal after failing to convert a great chance. On the same shift that Jannik Hansen missed an empty net, Vermette put the Coyotes on the board with a prefect shot from the blue line through a screen. Moss tied it 2:21 later by banging in a rebound from the top of the crease.

"I didn't see it," Luongo said of the first goal, "Our D man was trying to block it at the hash mark and it was a laser off the (cross) bar and in."

The tying goal, which started with Mike Ribeiro from behind the net to Rob Klinkhammer at the side, was one Luongo wanted back.

"I've got to try and make a save there, even though it was a rebound I got caught a little off balance," he said. "But the boys responded."

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