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Coyotes can't claw back in Gretzky's coaching debut

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes didn't
win for their new head coach on Wednesday night. They did leave a
good impression with "The Great One."

Markus Naslund scored two goals and Dan Cloutier made 16 of his
30 saves in the first period to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2
victory over the Coyotes in Wayne Gretzky's coaching debut.

"To be honest with you we played a pretty solid game," Gretzky
said. "We want to win every night but we've got 81 more games to
go and if I get the effort like that tonight and we keep improving
from where we were three weeks ago to now, we'll win our share of
games. Believe me."

Mattias Ohlund also scored and Brendan Morrison had two assists
for the Canucks, who led 2-0 after two periods.

Keith Ballard -- one of two rookie defensemen Gretzky chose to
play ahead of healthy veterans Cale Hulse and Sean O'Donnell -- made
it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Naslund scored his second of the game on a 2-on-1 break 19
seconds later.

The Coyotes got within one again, this time with 43 seconds to
play when Oleg Saprykin scored on the power play with Phoenix
goalie Curtis Joseph pulled for an extra attacker.

Gretzky, owner of 61 NHL records as a player, always enjoyed
success against Vancouver. He scored his first, 200th, 500th and
802nd goals (breaking Gordie Howe's all-time record) against the
Canucks.

Cloutier was the biggest reason it didn't continue for Gretzky
as a coach.

Cloutier made great saves against Mike Ricci, Saprykin and Tyson
Nash early. He saved his best for Boyd Devereaux with six minutes
left in the period, sprawling across to get his left toe on a
one-timer from Mike Comrie's feed on a 2-on-1.

"Early in the hockey game we had a couple of opportunities to
go up 1-0 but Cloutier was really good in the first period," said
Gretzky, who wasn't the only one making a highly publicized return.

Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi was back after serving a 17-month
suspension for his March 8, 2004 blindside attack that left
Colorado's Steve Moore with a concussion and broken bones in his
neck.

"It was just good to get a win, good to be in the dressing room
and fun to be in this atmosphere," said Bertuzzi, who received the
loudest roars during a raucous introduction and again after setting
up Naslund's first goal.

Bertuzzi sprung Naslund for a breakaway with a quick pass at the
Coyotes blue line and he beat Joseph with a quick move to his
backhand for a 2-0 lead at 7:59.

"I think it was relief to get the first one out of the way and
I'm sure it felt good out there because he looked good and now he
can just move forward," Naslund said of Bertuzzi's return. "I
think we had a decent game. We're not in full stride yet, but
Brendan and Todd were skating well."

Ohlund, playing his first game after missing the entire
preseason with back spasms, opened the scoring with a harmless
looking wrist shot off the left boards that hit traffic in front
and bounced between Joseph's legs.

Joseph finished with 27 saves.

Game notes
Coyotes C Petr Nedved left the game with a groin strain in
the third period and did not return. ... Coyotes RW Brett Hull wore
number 16, but will switch to father Bobby's 9 at a ceremony to
un-retire the number before Phoenix's home opener against Minnesota
on Saturday. ... Canucks RW Lee Goren played in place of Tyler
Bouck, who injured his groin in Tuesday's practice.