The remarkable rise of Alexandre Burrows may have reached its pinnacle on Monday night.
With the Vancouver Canucks fighting for their playoff lives, Burrows snapped a 21-game goalless drought in dramatic fashion, producing his first NHL hat trick to propel his team to a 7-4 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
"It was getting kind of tough, but the coaches kept showing confidence in me," Burrows said yesterday from Vancouver. "It's always nice to score a couple of goals. That was a big win for us. Hopefully, I won't have to go through another slump like that."
With the three-goal outburst, Burrows now has seven goals, 11 points and 49 penalty minutes in 34 games with the Canucks this season.
The 24-year-old from Pincourt, Que., was recalled from the Manitoba Moose by the Canucks on Jan. 2 and most people figured he'd be returning to the AHL before long -- including Burrows himself.
"I thought I'd maybe get in a couple of games," said Burrows, who sits beside veteran forward Trevor Linden in the Canucks' dressing room. "But now it's been more than three months. The transition has been smooth and so far, it's been going really well for me."
Burrows, an undrafted player, wasn't even on the Canucks radar before his strong training camp in September.
MADE THEIR DEBUTS
He and fellow energy forward Rick Rypien were signed to NHL contracts in November and both made their debuts this season.
Some pegged Burrows as a fourth-liner who would be called upon to provide a spark in the absence of agitator Matt Cooke but during a recent stretch, Burrows has found himself alongside the likes of Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi.
Not bad for a guy who seemed lost in the ECHL just a few short years ago and actually gave retirement some serious consideration.
"You always want your guys to go up and do well," said Moose head coach Alain Vigneault. "I didn't know how long it was going to be but obviously, it's for the rest of this year anyway. I'm happy for him.
"He's a great example of perseverance. It's a pretty good story there. It's great for everybody in this game."
You can say that again.
Burrows played his first season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a 19-year-old, then spent another season as an overage player with Shawinigan before turning pro and spending two full seasons in the ECHL.
He was expected to crack the Moose lineup in 2004-05, but was sent to the Columbia Inferno after a disappointing training camp.
Rather than hang his head, Burrows produced five goals and six points in four games before he was promoted to the AHL for the remainder of the season.
He got off to a strong start with the Moose this season (with 30 points in 33 games) and after his promotion, Burrows quickly became a favourite of Canucks head coach Marc Crawford -- who loves his enthusiasm.
"He's a hard-nosed guy and he's not afraid to go into the danger areas and rough it up," said Moose goalie Wade Flaherty. "He's a hard worker and he's getting rewarded."