With a logjam atop the Western Conference’s wild-card playoff standings, every game counts.
That’s what made the last outings for the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, who will meet Wednesday night north of the border, so important.
Both teams played well for 50-plus minutes, but got differing results.
The Coyotes fell behind visiting Buffalo by two goals in the opening nine minutes Saturday but rallied for a 5-2 victory, as Clayton Keller had two goals and an assist. Arizona, which is 10-1-1 in games in which Keller scores, moved into a three-way tie for the second wild-card berth, two points behind Vancouver.
“We’ve got to go to Vancouver and do the same thing,” said Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who earned his 100th victory with the team Saturday. “You just can’t do it on whatever the day is, you’ve got to do it every night, and that’s the key now more than ever.”
Keller scored the go-ahead goal at 7:30 of the second period and made it 4-2 at 13:59 of the third. He was moved up to the No. 1 line with Taylor Hall and Christian Dvorak after the first period against the Sabres.
“I felt pretty good,” said Keller, who has four goals in his past three games after scoring just one in his previous 20. “Even though we were down 2-0 I still felt good about our game.”
What prompted Tocchet to move Keller to the top line?
“I could tell he had it going,” Tocchet said. “The last few weeks he has been one of our better forwards. He’s out on the ice early before practice, and I know he wants to finish strong.”
Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers returned after being out since Feb. 1 with an oblique injury and contributed an assist.
“We’ve just got to keep the guys playing with a lot of urgency and not panic because there are a lot of games left,” Demers said. “We’ve got to go on a roll here and we have it here in the room to do it. We’re getting healthy again, which is great, and this is a stretch run where we have a chance to do something special.”
The Canucks are coming off a demoralizing 5-3 loss Sunday at Columbus after having a two-goal lead with less than eight minutes remaining.
“I thought we had the game,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “We were managing the game really well, and then they get the two power plays, and we didn’t get the job done on the (penalty kill).”
Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller scored for Vancouver and goaltender Louis Domingue stopped 30 shots in his first outing since being acquired at the trade deadline from New Jersey, but the Canucks allowed four goals in the final 7:21.
“To play the way we did for 50 minutes, there is no way we lose that game,” Canucks forward Brandon Sutter said. “It wasn’t even close. And then we just made a couple of bad plays I want have back, a couple plays the guys want to have back, and that changes the game. … It’s just a gut-wrenching way to lose.”
–Field Level Media