Cowan narrowly missed a check on Steven Reinprecht when the Phoenix Coyotes centre lifted his head at the last moment and veered.
But there still was enough contact for Cowan to jar the puck loose to start an offensive rush, which ended with Cowan getting the puck back from Brendan Morrison near the crease for a goal and a 1-0 lead early in the first period of the Canucks' 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
"I tried to get the shot off but I whiffed on it," said Cowan, who scored his sixth goal in four games. "I tried to stay with it and it came right back to me.
"I think he (Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph) bit on the shot."
Morrison, Markus Naslund and Sami Salo also scored for the Canucks, who moved four points ahead of Calgary for the Northwest Division lead with their fourth straight win.
"I still think this is going to go to the wire," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "There are so many conference games and division games left."
Shane Doan had a goal and an assist to extend a seven-game point streak and Jeff Taffe also scored for the Coyotes, who have lost 11-of-13 games.
Taffe, who spent much of the season in the minors, was one of four Coyotes players dressed for the sixth time or less this season.
"It's not going to be fun and it's not going to be easy but in the end it's the right way," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said of the recent youth movement. "We weren't doing that well with a US$42-million dollar payroll so what difference does it make?"
Morrison made it 2-0 just 96 seconds after Cowan's goal when he redirected Brent Sopel's shot from the point past Joseph.
Naslund extended the lead to 3-0 when he took a pass from Brian Smolinski and flipped a wrist shot over Joseph's blocker at 12:33 of the first.
"I felt like I've had good legs for a few games," Naslund said. "When you play with a guy you can give and go with, it's easier for sure."
Vancouver continued rolling in the second, with Salo sending a shot past Joseph from the left circle as the goalie was screened in front by Alex Burrows to put the Canucks ahead 4-0.
Doan cut the lead to 4-1 at 11:38 of the period while both teams had four skaters aside, bouncing a shot off Dany Sabourin's right pad for his team-leading 24th goal.
"It's definitely harder to play these games when you get out to a lead like that," Cowan said. "It's hard to stay with it but we did a pretty good job of it."
Taffe made it 4-2 with 15:28 left in the third period when his shot from the right side of the crease rebounded off the left post and behind Sabourin.
"If you don't come ready against a team like that you are going to get blown out every night," Taffe said.
Notes: Cowan had been goal-less on the season until starting his recent run. ... The Canucks were awarded a penalty shot midway through the first after a Coyotes player covered the puck with his glove in the crease, but Joseph stopped Henrik Sedin's attempt with a kick save. ... Following the Coyotes' flurry of moves at the trade deadline, Doan is one of only three remaining Coyotes players with double-digit goals. ... Sabourin was making his second start in 2007 and his first since February 20. ... The game was preceded by a real-estate seminar, "Foreclosures on Ice." All participants in the seminar received a ticket to the game.