The Phoenix Coyotes
left home six days ago in a tenuous playoff position. They're coming home in great shape for a second straight postseason trip.
The Coyotes completed a perfect four-game trip Friday night by beating the League-leading Vancouver Canucks 3-1 before a stunned sellout crowd of 18.860 at Rogers Arena. Not only did they become the first team to win twice in Vancouver this season, they also finished the season with a 6-0-0 mark in Western Canada, the first time that's been done since St. Louis in 2000-01.
The Coyotes head back to the desert for a six-game homestand fourth in the West with 89 points -- four ahead of fifth-place Los Angeles and just one behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead.
"It was a great trip," coach Dave Tippett said. "I give our guys a ton of credit. They battled hard every game."
Jason LaBarbera, who hadn't played since being shelled for eight goals at Tampa on Feb. 23, stopped 46 of 47 shots for his first win since Jan. 10.
"Barbs went in there and played a heck of a game for us," said. "Tough travel last night, coming in here to play a real good team -- I thought our guys gutted it out and LaBarbera gave us an excellent game."
LaBarbera got the call after Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 36 shots in a 3-1 win at Edmonton on Thursday. Bryzgalov had started 10 consecutive games and 29 of the last 30.
"I haven't played a whole lot lately," LaBarbera said. "The last game I played wasn't a whole lot of fun for anybody, especially myself. I had a lot of time to sit on it. I really wanted to come out and give the guys a chance to win tonight. I hadn't had a whole lot of chances to contribute to this team."
LaBarbera also said he got a lot of help from his teammates.
"Pucks were hitting me, and our guys were doing a good job of clearing rebounds," he said. "I was seeing the puck, and it was one of those nights where I was totally focused."
LaBarbera did some of his best work midway through the third period, helping the Coyotes kill off a 70-second 5-on-3 advantage against the NHL's top-ranged power-play. Not long afterwards, the Coyotes got a five-minute power play when Vancouver forward Alex Burrows was given a major and game misconduct for pushing Vernon Fiddler face-first into the end boards.
Burrows, surprised he received more than a two-minute minor, was disappointed he put his team in that position at that point in such a tight game.
"I have a lot of respect for Kelly Sutherland, I think he's one of the best refs in the league and it's a tough call," he said. "I know there's a lot going on with headshots right now throughout the NHL and Vern Fiddler kind of looked dazed a little bit.
"I thought a two-minute max, when I saw his arm up I thought it was going to be a boarding call. Obviously I was surprised when it was a major."
Radim Vrbata broke a scoreless tie with 6:29 left in regulation by snagging a loose puck in the slot and firing a blind backhand shot that beat Roberto Luongo. Just 1:18 later, Shane Doan beat Luongo from the right point through a screen set by Vrbata for a 2-0 lead.
"We hung around the game until we could find a way to win," Tippett said. "By the third period, we were looking for a break and the power play came through for us."
Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff spoiled LaBarbera's shutout by banging in a rebound with 2:58 remaining, but Lee Stempniak scored into an empty net with 1:05 left to give the Coyotes their fifth consecutive win and snap the Canucks' seven-game winning streak.
Despite the long layoff, the former Canuck goaltender showed no rust. He made a fully extended toe save on a power-play deflection and gloved Chris Higgins backhand in alone after a turnover at the side of the net in the opening eight minutes.
"It was a lot better than what happened in Tampa, when the first two shots went in," LaBarbera said.
"He was really good," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said of LaBarbera. "We've been up against him a couple times and he's been solid against us. He's a good goaltender, but again, we didn't have enough traffic."
Two days after clinching the Northwest Division title, and with the Western Conference crown and Presidents' Trophy there for the taking, the Canucks couldn't find a way to win their getaway game before beginning a four-game trip in Detroit on Wednesday.
"We didn't play great," Sedin said, "but we put a lot of shots on net. We didn't get the looks we wanted, even though we almost had 50 shots, I don't think we had too many great chances."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report