VANCOUVER — Troy Stetcher knows Thursday night wasn’t a pleasant experience for many Vancouver Canucks fans.
Vancouver was hosting the Arizona Coyotes, a Pacific Division foe who they’re battling for a Western Conference wild card spot, and while the stakes were high, the fight didn’t make for the most entertaining hockey, Stetcher said.
“I can only imagine how painful that was to watch as a fan,” the Canucks defenceman said after Vancouver lost 3-2 in overtime.
“There wasn’t much flow, not much creativity. It’s kind of one of those games that we knew coming in was going to be like that.”
A late goal from Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette forced overtime, where Arizona’s Alex Galchenyuk potted the game-winner 1:54 in.
“I came in with a little bit of speed and went behind the net and I saw the goalie was looking the other way, so was like ‘might as well,’ ” the centre said. “And I’m happy it went in.”
The victory moves Arizona (28-28-5) within a point of the Minnesota Wild, who hold the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Vancouver (26-27-8) lingers a single point behind the Coyotes.
The Canucks were dominant across the first two periods on Thursday, outshooting the Coyotes 26 to 17.
But Vancouver couldn’t keep up in the third and watched its 1-0 lead wither away as Arizona put 20 shots on net. The Canucks managed just four in the game’s final frame.
“When you have the lead, you want to protect it and you don’t want to be running gunning for offence late in games,” said Bo Horvat, who scored Vancouver’s first goal of the night.
“I thought we sat back a little bit too much and they kind of took it to us. It wasn’t good enough.”
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said he simply told his players to stick with their game during the second intermission.
“I’m a big believer you want that the puck in situations like that. You can’t be that guy that hopes it doesn’t come to you. I just told them ‘be that guy that wants the puck.’ Embrace it,” he said.
Jakob Chychrun tallied the Coyotes’ first goal of the night , a power-play marker midway through the third. His shot flew over the glove of Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom, appearing to bounce off the stick of Vancouver’s Jay Beagle on the way in.
“We didn’t like our first couple of periods and we were able to find a way in the end and that’s what it’s all about,” Chychrun said. “Playing with a little confidence in the third goes a long way and hopefully we can keep building on that. We are one point out now so important games from here on out and we’re excited for the push.”
Lawson Crouse also scored for the Coyotes in regulation.
Darcy Keumper had 30 saves for Arizona and Markstrom stopped 35-of-38 shots for the Canucks.
The loss was a frustrating one for the Vancouver goaltender.
“The last three losses were tight games, one-goal games. We need to find ways to get those points,” Markstrom said.
The Canucks weren’t without good chances on Thursday, including opportunities on a trio of power plays.
“We’ve said it a lot lately, a power-play goal would have been nice tonight,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “It probably would have been the difference in the game if we could have got one in the first two periods.”
Special teams have been a struggle for the squad recently, with the power play capitalizing on just 7.5 per cent of their chances over the last 18 games.
The Coyotes boast the top penalty kill in the league and went into Thursday’s game having shutdown 86 per cent of their opponents power plays this season.
The Canucks will be back in action on Saturday when they host the New York Islanders.
The Coyotes are headed back to Arizona, where they’ll battle the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
NOTES: Galchenyuk has eight points (five goals and three assists) in his last seven games. …Ryan Spooner made his Canucks debut on Thursday. The Edmonton Oilers traded the 27-year-old to Vancouver last week in exchange for Sam Gagner. … Forward Tim Schaller returned to the Canucks lineup after being healthy scratched for 10 of the team’s last 11 games.