VANCOUVER — Life post-Brock Boeser didn’t get off to a very promising start for the Canucks.
The game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. The Coyotes dominated shots on goal 34-17 and spent the majority of the game in Vancouver’s zone.
The Canucks’ offence, all but absent most of the game, was missing their leading scorer Boeser, who will be out the remainder of the season after injuring his back in Monday’s win over the Islanders. That being said, Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin wasn’t making excuses.
“With Brock or without Brock, this game was far from good enough,” he said. “It just wasn’t good enough from each and every guy.”
“It’s not our best game for sure,” added goalie Jacob Markstrom, who was busy making 32 saves. “They worked harder than us. They wanted it more than we did. And that’s pretty simple.”
The Coyotes (21-34-11) suddenly find themselves on a roll with an 8-2-1 record in their last 11 games. A big reason for that run has been rookie Clayton Keller, who assisted on Stepan’s winner and scored one himself.
Keller is fourth in the rookie scoring race with 48 points, seven points back of Boeser.
“Last 12 games he’s got a lot of juice, you can tell there’s no hitting the wall,” said Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet. “I really feel this last month he’s going to finish strong.
“He had some energy tonight. He had the puck a lot. One thing is he is not afraid to go to the net and he showed that getting that goal for us and obviously making that play to Step.”
Backup Darcy Kuemper made 16 saves in place of injured starter Antti Raanta.
“That’s one of the best games I’ve seen any team play this year,” said Kuemper. “They were incredible start to finish, we had the puck for almost the entire game down in their zone and I was just hoping my feet wouldn’t go to sleep.”
Jussi Jokinen scored for the Canucks (25-33-9), who have lost four of their past five games. It was Jokinen’s first as a Canuck after coming over in a deadline trade with Columbus.
He’s had a roller-coaster season, playing for four different teams, and knows he needs to produce offensively if he wants to avoid packing his bags again.
“It’s really important, I’m playing for my job next year,” said Jokinen. “It’s been a frustrating season. I haven’t been able to get many goals, so as a forward it feels good.”
Vancouver looked to have scored first shorthanded during a 5-on-3. Brandon Sutter sprung loose on a breakaway and appeared to go top corner, but the goal was called back after a review showed it hit the crossbar.
Just as one of the penalties expired, Markstrom made an incredible glove save on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but the goalie couldn’t control the puck and Keller picked it out from under defenceman Alex Edler to score at 18:20 of the first.
“Pretty sure it went into my glove and I was pretty happy with myself,” said Markstrom. “But then I looked in the glove and there was nothing there. The puck was in the back of the net.”
On delayed Arizona penalty, and Markstrom pulled for an extra attacker, Jokinen scored with a one-timer off a corner feed from Brendan Leipsic to tie it going into the first intermission.
The Coyotes dominated the shot clock through the game and finally solved Markstrom with just under a minute left to play. Keller found Stepan in the slot and he buried it to avoid overtime.