Jason LaBarbera and Radim Vrbata sent the Phoenix Coyotes into the summer on a winning note.
LaBarbera made 43 saves and Vrbata had a hat trick as the Coyotes spoiled Fan Appreciation Night for a sellout crowd at Honda Center by beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 Saturday.
Though the game meant nothing to the Ducks, who had already locked up the Pacific Division title and will face the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they bombarded LaBarbera for most of the night. The Coyotes' backup goaltender made a handful of fine stops in the final minute after the Ducks pulled goaltender Viktor Fasth for an extra attacker, but they couldn't get the equalizer and Antoine Vermette iced the win by hitting the empty net with less than two seconds to play.
"I wanted to win," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau told the media. "I wanted to get a good structured effort, and I think we had breakdowns in a lot of areas. The one thing we did get was effort. The opportunities to score were as many as we've had all year. We just didn't put them in."
Phoenix (21-18-9) missed the playoffs one year after advancing to the Western Conference Finals. It's the first time in four seasons under coach Dave Tippett that they haven't made the postseason.
"Tonight just reaffirms how we have to play in order to win," Tippett said. "I know this was a game that doesn't mean anything in the standings, but we expect our team to play with a certain character and grit and do whatever it takes to win."
Vrbata knocked in a rebound 8:14 into the game, but the Ducks tied it two minutes later when Teemu Selanne roofed a pass from Patrick Maroon.
"It was a fun night," Selanne said. "We lost, but I think we were still battling all the way through until the end. Overall, I think everybody's happy. Nobody got hurt and we move on to the real games."
Ex-Duck Kyle Chipchura's shot trickled behind Fasth and into the net at 17:36 to put Phoenix ahead 2-1. Anaheim tied it again when defenseman Francois Beauchemin fired through a screen and beat LaBarbera for a power-play goal 14 seconds into the second period.
Vrbata gave the Coyotes their third lead 6:46 into the middle period when he fired home a fat rebound into an open net. He completed his fourth career hat trick by scoring a shorthanded goal 7:43 into the third period; that goal proved to be the game-winner when Bobby Ryan scored midway through the period.
The Ducks finished 30-12-6, second in the Western Conference. They're ready to start the playoffs.
"I'm happy this is over," Selanne said. "Now it's the best time of the year, starting right now."
Material from team media was used in this report.