Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall (91) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev (8) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Thursday, January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Shotgun Jake: Virtanen nets key goal as Canucks beat Coyotes 3-1

NHL’s Pacific Division race tightens up

VANCOUVER — Jake Virtanen scored midway through the second period to reach a career-high 26 points in a season as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 Thursday night.

Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, into an empty net, also scored for the Canucks (26-18-4) who won for the 10th time in 13 games.

Elias Pettersson had a pair of assists for the Canucks. While Pearson’s goal was the 100th of his career.

Christian Dvorak scored for the Coyotes (26-19-5) who are 1-3-1 over their last five games.

The win made an already tight Pacific Division even closer. Arizona and Calgary are tied with 57 points. Vegas and Vancouver are next with 56, while Edmonton is one behind them.

Canuck goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who made his 16th start in 18 games, stopped 34 shots. He made a big right-pad save on Jason Demers late in the third period to preserve the win.

Adin Hill, making his third straight start, made 22 saves for Arizona.

Virtanen scored the only goal of the second period. He took a pass from J.T. Miller and swooped behind the Arizona net before backhanding a shot that hit Hill’s left skate and bounced into the net. It was his 14th goal of the season, one less than his career high set last year.

The teams were tied after the first period.

A defensive miscue set up the Coyote’s opening goal at 7:59. When Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers failed to clear a bouncing puck, Taylor Hall found Dvorak in front of the net. He scored his 12th of the season with a low shot to the far side.

Vancouver made it 1-1 on a power play at 15:01. Rookie defenceman Quinn Hughes boomed a shot from the blue line that Hill stopped only to have Horvat knock in the rebound. Horvat has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in the last eight games.

RELATED: Hellebuyck makes 41 saves as Jets blank Canucks 4-0

NOTES: After Thursday the Canucks play 18 of their remaining 34 games at Rogers Arena. Vancouver is 15-5-3 at home and 11-13-1 on the road. … Brandon Sutter returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing four weeks with what he says was a back problem. … The Canucks were outscored 22-14 while going 2-3-0 in their recent five-game road trip. … Arizona goaltender Antti Raanta (lower body) practiced Thursday and could play against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press

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