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Canucks down Coyotes in uneven game

It was a pretty boring hockey game.

Phoenix Coyotes, who exist in a kind-of ownership netherworld, wards of the state, arrived in Vancouver on a roll, five wins in a row.

The Canucks hadn't lost a game in regulation in almost a month.

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And the result: about as much spice as a tiny splash of salt and pepper.

The only curiosity was overtime, the 10th for the Canucks in the past 13 games.

The final was 2-1, after a shootout, where the Canucks won, evening their shootout record at 6-6.

"It was a hard game, a lot of battling," said defenceman Alex Edler, who scored in the third slot of what was a six-round shootout. "I'm happy we got the two points, that's what's important."

Of the many-OTs oddity, rookie Cody Hodgson said, "That's weird. I don't know what it is."

Producing points despite uneven efforts has been Vancouver's style of late and Monday night was no different. It took the Canucks, for instance, almost 10 minutes to log their first shot on Phoenix's backup and Vancouver local Jason LaBarbera. In the third, the Canucks had just two shots as they blew a 1-0 lead on a very soft goal – Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle unassisted – with barely two minutes left.

"It's a long, gruelling season," said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo Monday after a morning skate. "It's hard to be full throttle all the time."

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David Booth, the Canucks winger, delivered one of the few highlights on an uninspired night, the first of the night. Midway through the second, Ryan Kesler dumped a puck from centre ice into the offensive zone, where it popped off a Coyotes defender to a driving Booth. Carrying it toward the goal on a sharp angle, he moved the puck to his forehand from the backhand and drove it, and himself, past LaBarbera. It was Booth's 10th of the year, the eighth Canuck to reach double-digits.

"Just take it to the net," Booth said after the game, "and I guess good things happen."

The Canucks were impressed with LaBarbera.

"He'd be a starter on most teams," said Kesler after the second period.

Scoring chances, especially in the first half of the game, were few. Hodgson, midway through the first, showed some fine stick work, dancing past two Coyotes to put a high wrist shot on net, handled well by LaBarbera. In the second, Phoenix centre Gilbert Brule – hot of late – deked around Edler in the slot but couldn't convert with a shot to challenge Luongo.

Hodgson said he should have a tiny bit more patience would have helped on his drive.

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"I should have taken another look and buried it," said Hodgson.

The lack of Canucks firepower was stark. The first line, the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, had a single shot in the game, one from Burrows in overtime.

The shootout loss pushes Phoenix to 63 points. The team stands eighth place in the Western Conference, three ahead of the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche, the latter visiting Vancouver Wednesday. The win elevates Vancouver to 76 points, two behind the conference- and NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings.

The Sedins' pluses

One measure of the Sedins' value on the ice – even if they had little impact Monday – is an interesting parallel between this and last season. A year ago, when Daniel won the scoring title with 104 points, he was +30. Older brother Henrik, in fourth with 94 points, was +26. The plus-minus ratings were the best among the top dozen scorers in the league.

This year, the twins and linemates (most of the time) were +17 before Monday night's game. (Henrik is sixth in scoring at 58 points, Daniel tenth with 55.) The plus-minus rating ranks the two 21st in the league but again is the best among the top dozen point-getters.

LaBarbera, who is from the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, played nine games for the Canucks in 2008-09 and saluted the twins. He said every team in the league would love to have them.

"It always blows my mind how people around here [Vancouver]criticize them," he said after morning practice.

Not that sick guy

Canucks second-line winger Chris Higgins missed his sixth consecutive game last night but is near-ready to return to the ice, likely Wednesday when the Canucks host the Colorado Avalanche. Higgins suffered through staph infections in December and then in January reacted badly to some antibiotics, which left him with terrible stomach cramps, not eating for days. He's recovered most of the weight. The 28-year-old hasn't played a full season since 2007-08, his third in the league, when he was in Montreal. In the three years since, he's played 57, 67, and last season 62 (plus all 25 in the playoffs). This year he's played 45 of 56 Canucks games and is respected as one of the team's most consistent players, an important part of the American Express line with Ryan Kesler and David Booth. "I should be feeling a lot better soon," said Higgins to a swarm of reporters after spending extra time on the ice during the morning skate. "I don't want to be known as the sick guy."

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About the Author
National correspondent, Vancouver bureau

David Ebner is a national correspondent based in Vancouver. He joined The Globe and Mail in 2000 and worked in Toronto and Calgary before moving to Vancouver in 2008. He has reported on a wide range of stories – business, politics, arts, crime – and has covered sports since 2012. More

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