Unexpected outburst by Canucks leads to win
HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
|Henrik Sedin celebrates his penalty shot goal Thursday night in the Canucks' 7-4 win over the Predators. (REUTERS)
VANCOUVER - It's been a while. But Thursday night, the Vancouver Canucks finally got the bounces.
Hosting the supposedly stingy Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena, the forwards woke up, tempering their offensive concerns from the past few weeks and out-scoring whatever issues they had at the other end of the ice.
The Canucks got goals from seven different players, had their biggest production of the season, and chased Preds goalie Pekka Rinne from the crease for the third straight time in Vancouver. All in a night's work as they skated away with a 7-4 win and the Northwest Division lead yet again.
"I wasn't expecting that, that's for sure," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Anytime you're capable of taking a goalie of that calibre out of the game, you're either very opportunistic or making some great plays, probably a little combination of both there.
"Points are so hard to come by and teams are playing high percentage hockey that nights like this you don't see very often."
The trio of Jannik Hansen, Andrew Ebbett and Mason Raymond led the barrage — combining for three goals and eight points in the team's 13th victory of the season. Even though they had to hold off a late charge by Nashville, it proved to be a result that seemed to reflect the effort — with the Canucks finally playing the way they've stressed they could.
"Our work ethic was good but we got to clean up a few things system-wise," said captain Henrik Sedin, who scored a pretty penalty shot goal late in regulation. "We worked hard and that's when you're going to see us score more goals than we have in the past."
Depsite just 22 shots, the Canucks made the most of it with seven goals.
Whether the outburst is a one-off — much like their 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on March 2 before losing four straight — or something they can sustain moving forward remains to be seen. But for now, they pick up consecutive wins for the first time since Feb. 21 and 22 — the latter being their last meeting with Nashville.
"I don't think either team executed very well," said Henrik, who finished with two points. "There were a lot of turnovers and more goals than we expected but again we got to look at a few things to get better."
Roberto Luongo, who made his second straight start, stopped 29 of 33 shots for his seventh win of the year.
"It's nice to get some goals and able to play with a little bit of cushion there," the goaltender said. "I thought I could have been a little bit better tonight, especially some of those goals technically I committed early and got beat there."
The Canucks got on the board less than 90 seconds into the game. A miscue between Rinne and defenceman Scott Hannan behind the net led to a Hansen steal, which in turn led to an Ebbett goal — his first of the year.
Not long after, it was the Predators' turn to capitalize on a turnover. After taking the puck from defenceman Kevin Bieksa, Matt Halischuk made a great second effort to tuck in his wraparound attempt. The tie didn't last long. Alex Edler's bomb from the point put Vancouver back in front before Raymond's slapper — his seventh of the year — added to the lead through the first 20 minutes.
A quick exchange of goals early in the second period saw Max Lapierre pick up his second of the season, scoring on a breakaway after stepping out of the penalty box. That spelled the end of the night for Rinne, who has allowed 13 goals on 46 shots in his last three games in Vancouver. Thursday night, he gave up four on 12 shots.
However, 29 seconds later, Nashville got one back as Nick Spaling's shot went off Bieksa and in. Hansen finished his three-point night with the eventual winner, getting some help from Preds' defenceman Ryan Ellis, who pushed backup goalie Chris Mason and the puck into his own net.
Mike Fisher and Gabriel Bourque made things interesting with a pair for the visitors in the third but Henrik Sedin's penalty shot goal and David Booth's empty netter iced the victory.
"I heard AV ask to get a power play instead of me going down there on a penalty shot," Henrik Sedin quipped about his goal. Then Luongo chimed in, "Honestly I didn’t think he was going to score. I never see him score in practice.”
The Canucks failed to score on the power play again, going 0-for-2, and have now come up empty handed with the man advantage in 10 straight games. Mason finished with seven saves for the Preds.
Bieksa, whose absence had the Canucks going 1-6, returned from his groin injury while Steve Pinizzotto made his NHL debut — getting into a fight on his first shift.
Vancouver hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in a game that will see the Canucks honour the Vancouver Millionaires by wearing the full replica uniforms.