Canucks try to aid postseason cause in Arizona

( - The Vancouver Canucks will try for a fourth win in five games when they visit the sliding Arizona Coyotes for Sunday's clash in the desert.

The Canucks are sitting second in the Pacific Division with 86 points, leaving them two ahead of Calgary and four in front of Los Angeles. Vancouver picked up a big win over the fourth-place Kings on Saturday, notching a 4-1 victory in L.A.

Radim Vrbata's third-period goal on an extended power play was the difference in Saturday's victory. Vrbata's game-winner came 4:05 into the third on a 5- on-3 created when L.A. forward Tyler Toffoli was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for shoving Vancouver's Alex Burrows into the boards from behind with the game tied at 1-1.

Daniel Sedin and Bo Horvat tacked on empty-net goals in the final minute to seal the Canucks' fifth win in seven games, while Vrbata added an assist on Nick Bonino's second-period score to support Eddie Lack's 25 saves.

"This was big," Lack said. "If we would have lost this game we would have been tied but instead we are four (points) ahead. This was huge for the race."

Jacob Markstrom is expected to make his first start for Vancouver since a dreadful performance on March 3 against visiting San Jose. Markstrom was pulled less than eight minutes into that game after giving up three goals on four shots. He absorbed the loss as the Canucks fell 6-2.

On Thursday, Markstrom played for the first time since that rough start when he made his second NHL appearance of the season by coming on in relief of Lack. Markstrom stopped the only two shots he faced in the 6-2 loss to Columbus.

The Canucks are 21-12-3 as the guest this season and are completing a two-game swing this evening against a Coyotes team that is occupying the basement in the Western Conference.

Arizona has lost seven straight (0-6-1) and the last five setbacks have come in regulation. The Coyotes, who are ahead of only Buffalo in the NHL standings, dropped a 3-1 decision Saturday against visiting Pittsburgh. It was the club's sixth consecutive home loss and dropped Arizona to 10-22-5 as the host this season.

Former Coyotes forward Daniel Winnik scored the game-winning goal for the Penguins, who halted a four-game losing streak of their own. Winnik made it 2-1 Pittsburgh with 7:39 left in the second period and Sidney Crosby sealed the victory with an empty-netter in the closing seconds of regulation.

Tobias Rieder's short-handed marker accounted for the Coyotes' lone strike and Mike Smith stopped 34 shots.

"I think we played a solid game," said Rieder. "We made a couple of mistakes and that's what decided the game."

Smith is expected to start in net again for the Coyotes on Sunday. He is 7-4-2 with a 2.40 goals against average in 14 career outings against the Canucks.

The Coyotes have won three of the last four meetings against Vancouver overall and the Canucks have lost four straight in Arizona.