Minus their top two threats, the Phoenix Coyotes have had to look elsewhere for offence.
Kyle Chipchura filled that role on Tuesday night.
The gritty fourth liner scored a pretty goal in the first period and added an empty netter to clinch the victory late in regulation as Phoenix defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2.
“We got a couple big goals out of Chipchura,” Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. We use him in a lot of situations.
“He’s a gritty guy but he’s got pretty decent hands.”
Taken 18th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 draft, Chipchura was more humble in his assessment of his line’s offensive output.
“We’re a line that’s going to do it off of hard work, cycling game, getting pucks to the net,” said Chipchura, who had three goals on Phoenix’s three-game Western Canadian road trip. “It’s not going to be the prettiest all the time but we’ll take it when we can get them.”
The Coyotes finished the road trip 1-1-1 without leading scorer Radim Vrbata and top goal scorer Martin Hanzal.
“With the people we have out we had to come in here and manufacture a win and be opportunistic on our chances,” said Tippett.
Along with Chipchura, Paul Bissonnette picked up an assist on the opening goal to give him a three-game point streak for the first time in his career.
“Chipper’s been unbelievable of late,” said Phoenix forward Mikkel Boedker. “When you’re hot, you’re hot I guess. He’s been playing real well for us. (Bissonnette) has been getting some greasy assists and playing well too.
“We need that fourth line. We’re not a team that can rely on one or two guys.”
Boedker and Antoine Vermette and each added a goal and an assist for Phoenix (9-7-3), which was coming off back-to-back losses to Edmonton and Calgary over the weekend, including a third-period collapse against the Flames.
“In previous games when we took the lead we would kind of sat back a bit,” Boedker said. “Where we have more success is when we press the opponent down in their end.”
Instead of sitting on a 2-1 lead in the third, the visitors kept forechecking, leading to Vermette’s eventual winner.
“We wanted to play on our toes,” Tippett said. “Everybody knows what happened last game. We played a real good third period in Calgary until the last couple minutes so we wanted to carry it through tonight and we were able to do that.”
Jason Garrison and Henrik Sedin replied for Vancouver (10-5-4), which got 18 saves from Cory Schneider.
The Canucks were coming off a 2-1-1 road trip but have now dropped three straight at home. They have also now lost two in a row after earning at least a point in 10 of the previous 11 games.
Chipchura opened the scoring at 14:22 of the first. While battling behind the net, Bissonnette squirted the puck free to Chipchura, who knifed through a passive Canucks defence before cutting in front and roofing a backhand past Schneider.
The Coyotes doubled their lead at 9:54 of the second when David Runblad’s point shot ricocheted off Maxim Lapierre right to Boedker, who avoided the Vancouver forward’s check before beating Schneider under the glove for his fourth of the year.
That goal seemed to wake up the Canucks, who got on the board just 91 seconds later. Ryan Kesler dug the puck out of the boards and threw it to Garrison at the point, who faked a slapshot before ripping a wrist shot past Smith for his third of the year.
Schneider then did his part to keep Vancouver close, robbing Raffi Torres on the doorstep twice just a minute into the third.
But the Coyotes made it 3-1 at 12:32 when Boedker stripped Alex Edler of the puck to create the odd-man rush and then centred for Vermette, who squeaked his fifth of the season through Schneider’s pads.
“I felt like I got a heavy piece of it, and hits my back leg and trickles in,” Schneider said. “That’s when you’re not on top of your game or you’re not getting the results you want that’s the kind of stuff that happens and you’ve just got to find a way to be two per cent better and that can make a big difference.”
Vancouver again responded quickly after that goal, drawing back to within one a minute later when Henrik Sedin deflected a shot from his brother Daniel Sedin past Smith.
That would be as close as the Canucks would get as Chipchura iced the game with his second of the night and fourth of the season with 23 seconds left.
“They’re a tough team to get chances on,” Henrik Sedin said. “I mean you’re not going to see 3-on-2 rushes, 2-on-1s, it’s going to be a grinding game where you’re getting pucks deep and creating turnovers that way and they know exactly how to play when they have the lead, I thought we battled and tried to come back but we weren’t able to get the last one.”
NOTES: Chipchura now has 51 points in 235 games NHL games. ... Bissonnette has assists in three consecutive games after going pointless through eight contests. It is the first point streak of his five-year career. ... Phoenix was missing Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, out with injuries for their third and fourth straight games, respectively. Vrbata is the team’s leading scorer and Hanzal has a team-high seven goals. The Coyotes were also without the services of defencemen Derek Morris and David Schlemko. ... Vancouver was without defenceman Kevin Bieksa, missing his second straight game with a sore groin. ... Henrik Sedin played in his 600th consecutive game. Only Calgary defenceman Jay Bouwmeester has a longer ironman streak currently going (606 games).