NHL Hockey

Canucks visit Coyotes as teams push for playoffs

The Arizona Coyotes aren't acting like a team that hasn't made the playoffs in the past six seasons.

The Coyotes, who have the third longest postseason drought in the NHL behind only the Carolina Hurricanes (nine seasons) and Buffalo Sabres (seven), are just three points out of a Western Conference playoff berth.

Arizona has won four games in a row. They beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday as Derek Stepan scored twice, including a tying short-handed goal late in the third period.

"We're in playoff mode," Stepan told NHL.com. "We don't have a choice. We have to continue to push and continue to gather points. Getting one in the overtime is great, but we desperately needed that second one."

The Coyotes will put their winning streak on the line and attempt to move closer to a wild-card spot when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

"Last year, we weren't even around (the playoff race)," Stepan said. "So to be around it now, it's so much fun. The games ramp up and the importance of every little play is magnified. It's a great time of the year and we're enjoying it."

It's been a big week for the Coyotes. They defeated Winnipeg 4-1 Sunday on a night they retired Shane Doan's No. 19 jersey.

Coach Rick Tocchet said there was no hangover Tuesday.

"I thought we played a good game," Tocchet said. "It was back and forth all night and you could see on the bench we picked it up. It's been that way all year. When we're down, we're embracing those moments ... I think the guys are believing in what we're doing, they're pulling for each other ... We have 19 games left and it's going to have to be like this from here on in."

The Canucks, who suffered a 3-2 shootout defeat Wednesday at Colorado despite 43 saves from Jacob Markstrom, remain just five points out a playoff spot. But Vancouver is just 3-6-3 in its past 12 games.

"(Thursday) is a must-win game," Canucks defenseman Alex Biega told the Vancouver Sun.

Tanner Pearson made his debut for the Canucks on Wednesday after being acquired in a deadline-day deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pearson played left wing on the first line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. Pearson seemed to direct the puck into the net in overtime after getting tangled up with Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but after video review it was ruled no goal.

"It's the way she goes sometimes," Pearson told CanucksTV. "It would've been a nice one to have, though."

As for his first game with his new team?

"I thought it went pretty good," he said. "The legs were a bit iffy there to begin with, but that's just travel days. As the game went on I felt better and better. I was happy with the way it went."

The Canucks and Coyotes met last Thursday in Vancouver, with Alex Galchenyuk scoring 1:54 into overtime to give Arizona a 3-2 victory.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 28, 2019

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