ANAHEIM, Calif. - Despite earning his fourth career hat trick, it mattered little to Phoenix right wing Radim Vrbata.
The Coyotes defeated the Anaheim Ducks in the regular-season finale Saturday night, but they already had come up short in advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's not a situation that we wanted, but it's a short season and we just didn't get it done," Vrbata said of the Coyotes missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009. "Everyone was in the same situation. But we lost too many games in overtime and shootouts or whatever the case."
Vrbata's three goals boosted the Coyotes to a 5-3 victory over the Ducks before a standing room only crowd of 17,442 at Honda Center, a small consolation for Vrbata and his teammates.
"It is what it is," Phoenix right wing Shane Doan said. "Everyone was in the same boat and you're going to do the job that you're supposed to do. We had a stretch where we struggled for several games and that puts you in a spot where you can't get back in it."
While the season ended for Phoenix, the Ducks, the Pacific Division champs and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, will start preparing for seventh-seeded Detroit in the opening round of the playoffs, which begin next week (possibly Tuesday) at Honda Center.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said his club has its work cut out since the Red Wings are playing as well as anyone, he said.
"The Ducks and the Wings have a pretty good history," Boudreau said. "We're catching them when they're playing their best. It's going to be a real challenge for us. Whatever the seedings are, Detroit is Detroit. In many people's eyes are the favorite team here, especially coming off three wins in the end and they got them. They've shut out three of the last six games. We're in for a tough (series). The Ducks (30-12-6) had a tough go of it against the Coyotes (20-18-9), who never trailed. They had numerous scoring chances but failed to convert most of them. Despite having almost three times as many opportunities (14-5) through two periods, the Coyotes and goalie Jason LaBarbera carried a 3-2 lead into the final period before prevailing.
LaBarbera stopped 43 shots, while Fasth finished with 26 saves. Keith Yandle had two assists for Phoenix. Getzlaf recorded two assists for the Ducks.
Center Martin Hanzal stole the puck from Anaheim's Saku Koivu near mid-ice, then set up Vrbata for the game winner. Hanzal barreled toward the Ducks' net. Though he failed to convert his shot, Hanzal rebounded his miss and dumped a pass from behind the net to Vrbata who converted the shorthanded goal at 7:43 of the third.
That turned out to be the difference though Phoenix added an empty-netter by Antoine Vermette with two seconds left.
Anaheim's Bobby Ryan cut the deficit to 4-3 when he scored on an assist by Ryan Getzlaf at 9:33 of the third, but Phoenix (21-18-9) managed to keep the Ducks scoreless the rest of the way. "It was pretty much where we left off last year," said Anaheim's Teemu Selanne, who had a goal in the loss. "That's a good sign. I'm happy this (regular season) is over. Now it's the best time of year, starting now."
Vrbata scored his first goal after fielding a pass from Doan and lit up the lamp at 8:14 of the first to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.
But the Ducks answered two minutes later, when Selanne coverted a beautiful backhanded pass from Patrick Maroon and slipped it past LaBarbera to tie the score at 1 at 10:21 of the first. It was the 12th of the season and 675th goal of the 42-year-old Selanne's career.
Phoenix, though, regained the lead when center Kyle Chipchura fired a shot through the legs of Fasth with 2:24 remaining in the first for a 2-1 advantage.
Anaheim tied it at 2 just 14 seconds into the second period on a power play goal. Francois Beauchemin, with Corey Perry setting up shop just outside the crease and blocking the view of LaBarbera, rifled an attempt just below the blue line that found the net.
NOTES: The Ducks called up eight players from their Norfolk (Va.) franchise on Saturday. They are: defensemen Mat Clark, Nate Guenin, Jordan Hendry and Hampus Lindholm; left wings Max Friberg and Harry Zolnierczyk; goalie John Gibson; and center Peter Holland. ... Ducks' defenseman Luca Sbisa missed his sixth consecutive contest with a lower body injury. ... Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris also missed the game with a lower body injury. ... The Coyotes failure to make the playoffs is a first in the four seasons Dave Tippett has been the head coach.