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Officials try to restore order as members of the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes fight during first period NHL action in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Officials try to restore order as members of the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes fight during first period NHL action in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Canucks take the bite out of Coyotes Add to ...

It was a night of oddities, except for one constant.

Henrik Sedin, the Vancouver Canucks centreman and Hart Trophy candidate, was at it again Tuesday with a shorthanded goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

He entered the game tied with Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals in the NHL scoring race, yet now has a three-point margin with six games remaining before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sedin was serenaded with chants of "M-V-P" from the 299th consecutive sellout crowd at GM Place.

But some peculiarities accompanied another productive night for Sedin. For starters, there was his goal.

Late in the first period, Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov skated behind his net to play the puck, and promptly slid a backhander onto Sedin's stick for an easy tuck-away.

"That was a killer for them," Sedin said. "He might not be the best puck-handler in the league, so I took a chance ... it was a good pass."

The tally came just 39 seconds after Phoenix cut Vancouver's lead to 2-1, with a goal that left Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo livid.

Luongo was beaten, sans stick, by Radim Vrbata in the midst of a five-minute Coyotes power play. But Luongo's stick was in reach until Martin Hanzal subtly pushed it a few feet away from the net just seconds before the goal.

"I was a little upset," the goaltender said. "I didn't think he was allowed to do that, so I had a bit of a Jim Playfair moment."

(Playfair is the head coach of the American Hockey's League Abbotsford Heat who became an Internet sensation this week with an epic meltdown on the bench, in which he smashed several sticks and ripped off his blazer.)

The Coyotes extended power play came after a five-minute boarding penalty to Vancouver's Ryan Kesler.

The centreman was ejected for a vicious hit on Derek Morris, who was left with a bloody nose after crashing face first into the side boards. That brought a brouhaha but, oddly, only three penalties were assessed, despite the fact that gloves and sticks lay strewn about the Coyotes zone.

Morris said it was a dirty hit and that Kesler has a reputation for delivering them.

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said he thought the check was well-intentioned but that Morris turned into the boards, worsening the blow. He also said he thought it was going to go unpunished because several seconds passed before a referee's hand went in the air.

"All of a sudden, it's a major and a game misconduct," Vigneault said. "I think the fact that [Morris]was injured had something to do with it."

Head scratching defined the officials' evening as well. Safe to say, this game will not go on the résumés of referees Bill McCreary and Chris Lee.

Late in the second period, Daniel Sedin was sent off for tripping Lee Stempniak, who was penalized for diving on the same play. It was a cop-out call, sort of like a double pass-interference in football.

Even the clock was out of sorts.

The first period ended after 19 minutes because of a broken pane of glass, the extra 60 seconds tacked onto the middle frame.

Strange as the game was, there were also some moments of brilliance.

Luongo made 32 saves, and was under fire for most of the night. He robbed Shane Doan with a stick save in the second period, and warded off several good rebound attempts from tight quarters.

The Sedins also combined for a classic goal. Henrik's pass to the goalmouth was calmly deflected in by Daniel midway through the second period, which sealed the victory.

That goal was in contrast to Mason Raymond's first-period tally, which took a weird ricochet before finding the net. That made it 2-0 for the home team, which took a lead 37 seconds into the game on an Alex Burrows slapshot that, while knuckling, eluded Bryzgalov as though it was some sort of wiffle ball.

In the end, the Canucks won for the 28th time at home this season, establishing a new club record. And Sedin is now six points shy of tying Pavel Bure's club record for points in a season, 110 set in 1992-93.

Vigneault said it was one of the season's best all-around games, particularly since his team lost Kesler, one of its best players, early in the opening period. The Canucks were already ahead 2-0, however, scoring on their first two shots.

The Coyotes, meanwhile, remain four points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Western Conference. But Phoenix's Cinderella run from a bankruptcy court to the top of the table took a big hit, because the Sharks have a game in hand.

"The two quick ones early hurt us," Morris said. "We were flat."

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