Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 2/29/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. Even in a leap year, February is the shortest month. That's a shame for the Phoenix Coyotes because they absolutely owned these 29 days. Mikkel Boedker's warp-speed, shootout goal lifted Phoenix to a playoff-feel, 2-1 win over the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena, helping the Coyotes finish off an 11-0-1 month in which they earned all but one of a possible 24 points. In so doing, the Coyotes have vaulted from 12th place in the Western Conference standings to the Pacific Division lead and the corresponding No. 3 seed for the playoffs. "That was a heck of a month by any team's standards," said forward Ray Whitney, who had a goal in regulation and another in the shootout. "We realize that if we work hard we can compete with the big boys." The biggest of those boys were in town Tuesday. Vancouver had earned seven of 10 possible points on this six-game road trip before Tuesday's game, and the Canucks were the team responsible for that one lost Coyote point in February when they beat Phoenix in a shootout on Feb. 13 in Vancouver. With the trade-deadline acquisitions of Zack Kassian and Sami Pahlsson, the Canucks have loaded up for another run at the Stanley Cup that narrowly escaped them last season in a Game-7, Cup Finals loss to Boston. "They're an elite team in the league," coach Dave Tippett said. "That was a great challenge for our group. Our guys were talking about it before the game: They were the only team that was able to take points from us this month. Let's see if we can get two from them.'" From the outset, this was a goaltending exhibition between the Coyotes Mike Smith and Vancouver's Corey Schneider, who is technically the backup but has played better than highly-paid starter Roberto Luongo. Vancouver's Alexander Edler got a lucky bounce off Coyotes defenseman Chris Summers in the first period and it looked like that goal might hold up as Schneider robbed Phoenix again and again, while getting plenty of help from his posts. But just as they did in that shootout loss in Vancouver, Phoenix got the equalizer well into the third period when Whitney knocked a knuckleball rebound of Keith Yandle's shot between Schneider's pads. From that point on, Smith was impenetrable, robbing Daniel Sedin on a goal-mouth feed from brother Henrik, and stoning both Canucks shooters he faced in the shootout, including Mason Raymond's lengthy, spin-o-rama on which he appeared to come to a complete stop. "It seemed like he was turning a school bus," quipped Smith, who is seventh in the league with a .927 save percentage and fifth among starters. When asked what he saw on Tuesday, Smith smiled. "I saw a lot of things," he said. "From a goaltender's perspective, that's important. If I'm not seeing things I'm in trouble." There was palpable concern among Coyotes fans on Twitter Tuesday night that the simple turning of the month could spell trouble for the stretch run. But Tippett was showing no concern for the Ides of March. "We don't just start new," he said. "We continue to build confidence, build momentum and build our team game for the stretch drive. If we secure a playoff spot, hopefully we're playing well going into it and that's the whole mind-set. "March 1 shouldn't change our mind-set."
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