VANCOUVER – Instead of trying to hang on to a lead, the Phoenix Coyotes built on one against the Vancouver Canucks.
After uncharacteristically blowing leads in weekend losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, Antoine Vermette gave the Coyotes a two-goal cushion with 7:28 left, and Kyle Chipchura added his second goal into an empty net as Phoenix wrapped up a three-game trip through Western Canada by beating the Canucks 4-2 on Tuesday night.
"We wanted to play on our toes," coach Dave Tippett said.
There was still plenty of focus on the return of the Coyotes' signature stinginess after it disappeared during consecutive losses, including giving up two goals in the final 1:23 in Calgary on Sunday. But Phoenix was outshooting the Canucks 6-3 in the third period when Vermette scored on a breakaway to extend the Coyotes lead to 3-1.
"That was one key we've been talking about, one thing I don't think we were executing in previous games, where we took the lead and kind of sat back a little bit," said Vermette, who also had an assist. "We have more success when we press the opponent down in their end, and that's one thing we were focusing on in the third here."
Phoenix did give up a goal to Henrik Sedin just 64 seconds after Vermette scored. But Chipchura hit the empty net with 22.3 seconds left -- helping erase the memory of the 5-4 loss in Calgary, a game the Coyotes led 4-3 before allowing two late goals. That came one day after Phoenix saw a 2-0 lead in Edmonton turn into a 3-2 shootout loss.
"We talked about trying to throw pucks to the net and play a territorial game where we play most of the time in their end," Vermette said.
The Canucks spent a good portion of the third period – and the game – trying to get through the neutral zone. When they did, Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith, who made 29 saves, was often the first one to the puck, helping Phoenix break out with smart passes.
"He acts as a third defenseman and it makes that challenge even bigger," coach Alain Vigneault said. "And when they get a lead, like they did tonight on three occasions, it makes it real challenging. They did a real good job of limiting us and shutting us down."
At the other end, Phoenix is getting contributions throughout a lineup missing two of its top four scoring forwards in Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Mikkel Boedker also had a goal and an assist, and Chipchura's fourth line scored for a third straight game.
"We need everyone chipping in and really raise their level from where they were the last couple games and it paid off," Tippett said.
Even Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette, who is known as much for his Twitter account as his on-ice play, is getting in on the act, helping set up Chipchura's opening goal – his 50th NHL point – with 5:38 left in the first period to extend his first NHL point streak to three games.
"We say we have to score by committee, and Bizz is part of that committee I guess," Tippett said with a smile.
Defenseman Jason Garrison also scored for the Canucks and Cory Schneider, back in goal after Roberto Luongo was blitzed in Sunday's 8-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, finished with 18 saves.
Schneider was hard on himself as the Canucks lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season.
"I'm kind of tired of playing like an average goalie, it's getting ridiculous now, three or four games in a row giving up three goals or more," Schneider said. "You know I don't care if they were nice goals or guys wide open it doesn't matter, you got to make some big saves to give your team a chance to at least get a point."
The first two goals came after blown coverage left Chipchura and Boedker alone in front, and Vermette was in alone from the hash marks before his shot trickled over the line off Schneider.
Told of Schneider's harsh self-assessment, Vigneault pointed instead to the breakdowns that led to good scoring chances, saying it "is a team game." But his goaltender wasn't letting himself off the hook.
"It wasn't a Picasso, but we had the effort and we could have won that game and I'm just getting sick of giving up three goals a night and playing like an OK goalie and not the goalie that I know I can be and that my teammates expect me to be," Schneider said.
"You have to find a way to come up with another big save. Anybody can lose 3-2. You got to find a way to win 2-1 or at least get it to overtime and give your team a chance to get two points or one."
Schneider's frustration echoed the Coyotes sentiments coming into Vancouver after two tough losses.
Phoenix left feeling much better about things.
“We’re a team that usually hangs on to leads pretty well and we coughed up two on this trip," Chipchura said. " but we looked at it like if we could get three points out of this swing and make it a decent trip."