VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Jake Virtanen borrowed a move from his Western Hockey League days - and it helped lift the Vancouver Canucks to victory.
Virtanen scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period and Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves to lead the Canucks past the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Thursday night.
With the score tied at 1 and the puck on his stick with just under five minutes left in the period, Virtanen went to something that worked when he played with the Calgary Hitmen. He took a pass from J.T. Miller and swooped behind the Arizona net before backhanding a shot that hit goaltender Adin Hill’s left skate and bounced into the net.
“I saw the goalie overcommit a little bit,” said the right wing who scored his 14th goal of the season, one less than his career high set last year. “I took a took a quick glance up.
“In junior (league), I used to do that wraparound move. I thought I would try it out - and it worked.”
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet wasn’t happy about the go-ahead goal.
“That goal was avoidable,” he said. “It’s just a nothing play. We had the puck and that was the difference in the game.”
Bo Horvat also scored and Tanner Pearson had an empty-net goal for the Canucks, who won for the 10th time in 13 games.
Markstrom, who made his 16th start in 18 games, made a right-pad save on Jason Demers late in the third period to preserve the win.
Vancouver's victory made an already tight Pacific Division even closer. Arizona and Calgary are tied with 57 points, Vegas and Vancouver are next with 56, while Edmonton is one behind them.
“It’s a game of inches right now in the standings and on the ice,” said Horvat, who has 13 points with six goals and seven assists in his last nine games. “It’s going to be like that from here on out. We have to keep winning hockey games if we are going to stay in it.”
Christian Dvorak scored for the Coyotes, who are 1-3-1 over their last five games. Adin Hill, making his third straight start, made 22 saves.
Virtanen goal was his 14th of the season, one less than his career high set last year, but gave him a career-best 26 points in just 48 games this year. He had 25 in 70 games last season.
“It’s nice, (but) I don’t really look at it like that,” he said. “I want to keep going and keep producing for our team. We want to make the playoffs, so whatever I can do.”
A defensive miscue set up the Coyotes' opening goal at 7:59. When Vancouver defenseman Tyler Myers failed to clear a bouncing puck, Taylor Hall found Dvorak in front of the net. He scored his 12th of the season with a low shot to the far side.
Vancouver made it 1-1 on a power play at 15:01. Rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes boomed a shot from the blue line that Hill stopped only to have Horvat knock in the rebound. Horvat has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in the last eight games.
“I thought it was a pretty solid game here for us, but there’s no moral victories, especially at this time of year,” Dvorak said. “It’s a tough one to lose.
NOTES: Elias Pettersson had a pair of assists for the Canucks. Pearson's goal was the 100th of his career. The Canucks play 18 of their remaining 34 games at Rogers Arena. Vancouver is 15-5-3 at home and 11-13-1 on the road. Brandon Sutter returned to Vancouver's lineup after missing four weeks with what he says was a back issue. The Canucks were outscored 22-14 while going 2-3-0 in their recent five-game road trip. Arizona G Antti Raanta (lower body) practiced Thursday and could play Saturday against Edmonton.
Coyotes: at Edmonton on Saturday.
Canucks: host San Jose on Saturday night.