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Coyotes pick up huge win in Vancouver, stay afloat in playoff race

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, left, gets up as Arizona Coyotes' Carl Soderberg (34), of Sweden, and Phil Kessel (81) celebrate Soderberg's goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

With their struggles coming out of the All-Star break, the Arizona Coyotes haven’t left themselves much wiggle room in a crowded wild card race for a playoff spot.

Prior to Wednesday’s action across the league, they were at 72 points, three points out from the Calgary Flames (75 points) for the last spot in the Pacific Division and two away from the Vancouver Canucks (74) and Winnipeg Jets (74) for the two wild card positions in the Western Conference.

There’s also the Minnesota Wild (73) and Nashville Predators (72) still involved, and the fact that the Coyotes now after Wednesday have two more games played than Vancouver, Minnesota and Nashville is also an issue.

This is a long way of saying that they absolutely need to take advantage of any extra opportunities presented their way to control their own fate, like when they play against these teams. So when they bounced back in Vancouver on Wednesday after giving up two goals in the third to trail 2-1 and scored three unanswered, it was a monumental 4-2 victory.

The way the Coyotes scored their first two felt like the hockey gods intervening as if to say that Arizona’s season shouldn’t be done yet.

A bizarre sequence of a puck behind the net bouncing off Carl Soderberg’s stick resulted in it going off the back of Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko and going in the net.

A scoreless second period brought on a third that had five total goals.

Vancouver scored those two aforementioned goals through Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, leaving the Coyotes on their way to a disastrous loss. But instead, an even bigger disaster ensued for the opposition, as a turnover by the Canucks in some buildup play from the back left Nick Schmaltz in front of the net with the puck for Arizona and he buried his ninth goal of the season to tie the game.

Less than three minutes later, Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot from the blue line was just slightly deflected by Lawson Crouse and made its way past Demko to close out a wild 10 minutes of two back-to-back goals by each team and ended in a 3-2 Coyotes lead.

They held the line from there, and Ekman-Larsson’s heave from the other side of the ice on an empty net went in to lock up the win.

Arizona gets two pockets of games against these teams, and this win is the start of the first one and why it was so important.

Their next three are against Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver when they must also get results. They also close the season with three of their last five games against the Predators, Canucks and Jets, the second patch against this group.

On a night when Calgary also won, Wednesday’s victory represented how the Coyotes must keep up (and then some) while also making up ground if they want to bring playoff hockey back to the Valley.

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