GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -From the moment he arrived in the desert last fall, Ilya Bryzgalov has pledged to help lead the Phoenix Coyotes to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With Bryzgalov recording 24 saves for his fifth career shutout, Phoenix defeated the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 on Thursday night and revived its flickering playoff hopes.
"Every game is do or die for us," said Bryzgalov, who has two shutouts since Phoenix claimed him off waivers from Anaheim in November. He also stopped 35 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory over Anaheim on Tuesday.
Niko Kapanen and Daniel Winnik each scored and Martin Hanzal had two assists for Phoenix, which pulled within three points of the eighth-place Canucks in the Western Conference race.
But the star of the game was Bryzgalov, who slammed the door on a Canucks club that has mustered three goals in the first three games of a four-game western road swing.
"Bryzgalov was sensational tonight," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's the real deal. He's a pretty special young man, and he's made us a better team."
Roberto Luongo had 43 saves for the Canucks and single-handedly kept Vancouver in the game, but the Canucks couldn't generate much offense. Their power play was 0-for-5.
"I think you have to give credit where credit is due," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "I mean, Phoenix came pretty hard."
It was a critical game for the Coyotes, who are bidding for their first Stanley Cup playoff berth since 2002. They entered in 10th place in the Western Conference, five points behind No. 8 Vancouver and three behind Nashville. The Predators lost to Los Angeles at home on Thursday night, so the Coyotes found themselves with a rare chance to gain ground on both clubs.
"It's a playoff game, pretty much, for us," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We know that, and I'm sure they know that."
Phoenix came out with energy, firing 24 shots on Luongo in the first period, the most in a period for the Coyotes this season. But they couldn't beat Luongo, who gave up four goals on 19 shots in a 24-minute outing one night earlier in Anaheim.
"I was not pleased with the way things went (in Anaheim)," Luongo said. "Any time you go out there you want to do your best. It's not really a matter of bouncing back. It's more a matter of making sure you give your team a chance to win."
Emotions ran high. Late in the first period, Phoenix tough guy Daniel Carcillo fought Vancouver's Alex Burrows. When they were sent off, the other skaters dropped their gloves and sticks and scrummed along the boards, and a total of 44 penalty minutes were assessed.
The Coyotes finally solved Luongo on a power-play goal at 10:32 of the second period. Keith Ballard's shot from the point was deflected in front of the goal, and Kapanen scooped it up and scored from the left circle.
At 7:32 of the third period, Phoenix took a 2-0 lead when Hanzal stole a pass in the neutral zone, then fed Winnik between the circles. Winnik easily beat Luongo.
"Their power play got them a big goal and they made us pay on a turnover in the third period," Vigneault said.
Notes: The teams meet again on March 17 in Vancouver. ... Phoenix will wrap up its five-game homestand against Edmonton on Saturday night. ... The Canucks are 1-2 despite scoring only three goals in the first three games of a four-game road trip. They finish the trip on Saturday in Dallas.