VANCOUVER (CP) - A sloppy defensive zone play in a tight game became a wake-up call Thursday for the Vancouver Canucks.
Fortunately for them, they answered it. The Phoenix Coyotes took a 3-2 third-period lead when a blind pass by Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa was intercepted. The puck quickly wound up on the stick of Shane Doan and behind goalie Roberto Luongo who eventually preserved for his career-high 36th win in a 4-3 victory for the Canucks.
"It did," Markus Naslund, who scored the winner, said when asked if the play provided focus for the Canucks.
"And that's the sign of a good team that can find a way to win in the tight games when you're not starting off playing great. We made a mistake and they got up 3-2 but we slowly took over and I think we deserved the win."
Daniel Sedin started the comeback with the second of his two power-play goals when he directed brother Henrik's centring pass past Phoenix netminder Curtis Joseph.
The goal was Sedin's fifth in six games and 29th of the season.
Naslund's 21st goal was the winner with 4:14 remaining. He found a loose puck in front of Joseph and poked it under the goalie.
New Canucks Brent Sopel and Bryan Smolinski, obtained just before Tuesday's trading deadline, drew assists.
"(Smolinski) came down the wing and just threw it back to me," Sopel said. "I saw (Naslund) going to the net and tried to get it to him. He finds it and puts it in."
The Canucks (37-22-5) ended a two-game losing skid and stayed one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild and two ahead of the Calgary Flames in the Northwest Division's torrid first-place race. They face the Wild here Sunday.
The Coyotes (27-34-3), who jettisoned veterans Ladislav Nagy, Oleg Saprykin, Yanic Perreault and Georges Laraque at or near the trade deadline, have lost six of their last seven road games.
Jeff Cowan completed the Vancouver attack with his first goal as a Canuck. Bill Thomas matched Daniel Sedin's two power-play goals for Phoenix.
Cowan, who got extra ice time on the penalty kill when checking centre Josh Green suffered a knee injury, blocked Travis Roche's pass at the Canuck blue-line and had a breakaway on Joseph.
"It was a great opportunity for me but I feel bad for Josh Green," Cowan said after giving Vancouver a 2-1 lead. "He went down with that knee injury and it's going to be tough.
"It was nice to chip in and get that ice time at the end (when the Canucks were protecting their lead with Joseph lifted for an extra attacker.)"
Cowan, who had gone 52 games with out a goal and last scored March 14, 2006 - against Phoenix - said he made up his mind to shoot early.
"It looked like it was open, that top corner." he said. "I just wanted to get it off real quick and it surprised (Joseph)."
With snipers like Nagy gone, Thomas made the most of his time on the power play, scoring when a bad bounce off the end glass left him with an open net and by backhanding Yanick Lehoux's centring pass out of a goalmouth scramble.
"Right now, anything I can do to help build for next season is what I'm going to do," said the 23-year-old Pittsburgh native who now has two goals this season after being called up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Jan. 28.
Doan said the Coyotes tried to set up Thomas for one more.
"As a young guy, a hat trick would be pretty special."
Losing the lead was disappointing but Vancouver, 20-4-4 since Christmas, deserved credit for the victory, Doan said.
"That's why they're playing as good as any team in the league with being able to come back and they have great goaltending."
Coach Wayne Gretzky said his club is younger and adapting to a new style.
"I loved the way our guys battled again tonight," he said. "They played hard and changed their style to be a little more aggressive."
NOTES:Joseph played in his 900th career game ... Phoenix lost Owen Nolan to a shoulder injury ... winger Taylor Pyatt returned to the Vancouver lineup after complaining of blurred vision when he received an elbow to the head in Sunday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars ... Canuck Brendan Morrison played in his 494th consecutive game, the NHL's current iron man streak.