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Lack, Weber lead Canucks past Coyotes

by Kevin Woodley /

VANCOUVER -- Not many predicted the Vancouver Canucks would make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season; certainly not after missing for the first time in six years during a miserable 2013-14 season.

The Canucks aren't happy just being back in the playoffs, however. They want home-ice advantage and took another step towards it with a lopsided win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Defenseman Yannick Weber scored two power-play goals 1:28 apart late in the second period and Eddie Lack made 28 saves to lead the Canucks to a 5-0 victory at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

"There were a few occasions people counted us out, but we stepped up," captain Henrik Sedin said. "You understand how hard it is to make the playoffs. We haven't had any long losing streaks throughout the year and still we had to battle up until Game 81."

They might need Game 82 to secure home-ice advantage.

Daniel Sedin, Ronalds Kenins and Dan Hamhuis also scored for the Canucks (47-29-5), who are two points ahead of the Calgary Flames for second place in the Pacific Division. The Flames and Canucks will play each other in the Western Conference First Round, but with one game remaining for each the question is who will host the first two games.

"It's going to be awesome," said Daniel Sedin, who along with his twin brother is the only player left from the last playoff series against the Flames, in 2004. "All-Canadian matchup, you can't ask for more. Hopefully we get home ice and it's going to be a lot of fun."

The Flames ensured a series against the Canucks when they beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 earlier Thursday to secure their playoff spot. Calgary visits the Winnipeg Jets, who also locked up a playoff berth Thursday, in their regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon. A victory by the Flames would force the Canucks to get one point in their game against the Edmonton Oilers later Saturday to maintain the home-ice advantage.

"Big game on Saturday," said Daniel, who also had an assist against the Coyotes. "We'll take the same approach as we did today, just play hard and play our system and I think we'll be fine."

But the Canucks may have a different goalie against the Oilers.

No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller dressed as the backup for the first time since spraining his knee on Feb. 22, and coach Willie Desjardins hinted strongly that Miller would start the regular-season finale.

"You have to have two goalies going into the playoffs," Desjardins said. "It would be tough on Ryan if he ended up playing in the playoffs without having played in so long."

Desjardins hasn't announced his playoff starter, but Lack continued to make a strong case despite not being overly busy. He made 12 saves in the third period to complete his second shutout of the season.

Lack is 12-6-2 with a .927 save percentage since Miller was hurt. But he wasn't thinking about who will start the playoffs or worried about seeing Miller back on the bench as his backup.

"That's one of the things I felt I did wrong last year," said Lack, who struggled after being given the No. 1 job when Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers. "I was thinking a little bit too much ahead. This year I'm trying to stay in the moment."

Arizona is already looking ahead to next season.

The Coyotes, playing without captain Shane Doan, who was injured in Calgary on Tuesday, lost for the sixth time in seven games. Arizona (24-49-8) is last in the Western Conference and ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres in the overall NHL standings entering the season finale at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

"I'm ready to wrap it up on Saturday for sure," coach Dave Tippett said when asked if he thought players just wanted the season to be over. "Time to start fixing the mess."

Lack's best saves came early against fellow Swede, good friend and former teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Lack threw out his blocker and then his glove on consecutive power-play shots to prevent him from setting a franchise record for goals by a defenseman.

"I had a couple good chances to score on him but he played very good in net," said Ekman-Larsson, whose 23 goals lead all NHL defensemen. "It's frustrating but it is what it is and you just have to deal with it one more game."

Daniel Sedin opened the scoring with 3:38 left in the first period, one-touching a cross-ice pass from twin brother Henrik Sedin.

Kenins doubled the lead 6:51 into the second period with his first goal in 22 games and his first point in 12, and Weber broke the game open with his back-to-back power-play goals.

With Coyotes forward Kyle Chipchura already in the penalty box for holding, Arizona defenseman Andrew Campbell was penalized for closing his hand on the puck, giving the Canucks a 5-on-3 advantage for 12 seconds.

Vancouver needed only 10 seconds to convert.

Weber beat Smith to the high blocker side at 15:42 with a one-time slap shot from the middle of the ice just inside the blue line two seconds before the penalty to Chipchura was to expire.

"The 5-on-3 is a set play we've been practicing quite a bit; we just never had a chance to try it in a game," Weber said. "There wasn't much left so we wanted to do that play and it worked out perfectly."

With Campbell still in the box, Weber beat Smith low on the blocker with another one-timer from a similar spot for his 11th goal of the season. Smith, who made 20 saves, was then pulled in favor of rookie Louis Domingue, who made seven saves.

"That was a mercy pull," Tippett said of Smith. "Poor execution, some penalties we couldn't kill and we chased the game."

Lack secured his sixth career shutout by making a point-blank stop on Craig Cunningham with eight minutes left, prompting chants of "Eddie, Eddie" from the crowd.

"When they chant your name you don't want to let one in," Lack said. "We've had a connection from the start, me and the fans. It's been a fun ride and they're going to be a big part of any playoff success."

Hamhuis rounded out the scoring with 3:11 left, beating Domingue over the glove on a power-play rush for his first goal this season. Vancouver finished 3-for-4 on the power play and has scored 11 goals in the past 11 games with the man advantage since Weber was added to the point of the top power-play unit.

"He's been really good for us and something you need on a power play is that threat up top for a one timer," Henrik Sedin said of Weber. "Even if you take him away it's going to open up room for us down low."

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