PHILADELPHIA -- As much as he doesn't want to do it because of how well Henrik and Daniel Sedin play together, Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella knows there are times he is going to have to split up the twins in order to jump-start the offense and give the coach on the other bench a tough decision on which twin’s line to check.
He did it Oct. 6 at the Calgary Flames and it led to third-period comeback and eventual overtime win. Tortorella went back to the well Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, and it paid immediate dividends again, leading to another victory, this time in regulation.
Tortorella broke up the twins roughly six-and-a-half minutes into the third period, and the new top line of Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler cashed in on the game-tying and game-winning goals as the Canucks came back for a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers to snap a two-game losing streak and start their seven-game road trip off on the right note.
They continue the trip Thursday at the Buffalo Sabres.
"Listen, [the twins] play really well together, and it's very tough to split them up, but I think at times that's going to happen," Tortorella said. "I think as you go through the game, those are calls we'll make, but it's awful tough to keep them away from one another because they play so very well together."
Henrik Sedin set up Higgins with a pass from behind the net to the slot for the tying goal with 12:29 to play. It was Higgins' first goal of the season.
Kesler's second goal of the night (he also scored 12:36 into the first period to tie the game at 1-1) came off a rebound of Higgins' shot with 2:25 to play and proved to be the winner. Kesler outmuscled Nicklas Grossman to get to the rebound before depositing it past Flyers goalie Steve Mason. Henrik Sedin had the secondary assist on the goal.
"Maybe it's a change of scenery," Kesler said of why the Canucks have been scoring when Tortorella splits up the Sedins. "You just try to spark something, see if something else works. We were getting chances, just not getting rewarded and that change helped a lot."
Flyers rookie Tye McGinn scored twice to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo made 20 saves and Vancouver blocked three shots on a penalty kill after Higgins tied the game to help the veteran goalie out.
Mason made 22 saves as the Flyers lost their third game in a row and fell to 1-6-0 on the season.
"You gotta go out and take it to the other team in the third period and win the game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "We're kind of sitting back a little bit and waiting for something bad to happen. You know how that goes, but we've gotta get over that hump."
Flyers captain Claude Giroux thought the team played its best game of the season in the loss. That sentiment was not lost on right wing Jakub Voracek, but he also said the talk of playing well and losing is already tired and has to stop.
"When I came here (in 2011), we had that attitude, no matter if we were down 5-2 in the third period, there was no hesitation for anybody on the bench that we couldn't come back," Voracek said. "The last two seasons, it feels if we're up 2-1, down one goal or it's even tied, we are scared to make something happen on the ice. We've just gotta stick with the same gameplan for all 60 minutes. We're losing points this way."
Voracek said he wasn't sure how or why the team's attitude changed since the start of last season, but he knows right now it's killing them.
"It's a lot of experienced players in the locker room and nobody is going to help us; we have to find a way to win those games," Voracek said. "That's what it's all about; find a way in the third to try to get those two points."
Higgins and Kesler needed someone with Henrik Sedin's skill to help them find a way. They had been getting plenty of quality scoring chances prior to the game in Philadelphia on Tuesday (they had a combined 40 shots on goal in the Canucks’ first six games), but had just one goal between them. They started the game against the Flyers with Jannik Hansen on their line, but they finally cashed in when Tortorella gave them a Sedin.
"You can see he's a fun player to play with," Kesler said of Henrik Sedin. "He's always looking for you and your job is pretty easy when you're playing with him; it's get open and get ready to shoot."
Higgins didn't have to do much on his goal except find an open patch of ice and wait for the pass. Sedin started to come around the left side of the goal and Grossmann went to challenge him, but both Giroux and defenseman Braydon Coburn didn't move, leaving Higgins alone in the slot for a one-timer.
"If teams are going to leave him back there or chase him, it doesn't really matter; you just gotta get open," Higgins said. "He feathered a saucer pass right in the slot for me."
Kesler's winner was a result of some of the things Tortorella is preaching, such as getting pucks and bodies to the net.
Dan Hamhuis kept the puck in at the point and wheeled it down to Henrik Sedin, who threaded a pass across to Higgins for a one-timer from the right circle. The rebound came out on the opposite side and Kesler had his stick down and enough position on the Flyers’ defense to shoot it in.
Philadelphia's same defense pair of Coburn and Grossmann was on the ice for that goal, too.
"They have been around the puck," Tortorella said of Kesler and Higgins. "[Higgins] could have had a couple [Tuesday night]. They just need to stay playing in the areas they've been playing in and keep banging away."
It's easier when they have Henrik Sedin as a linemate. That won't always be the case, but at least now Tortorella has faith that it can work when he does split up the twins.
"You put a 100-point player on any line, it's going to give them some confidence and some offense," Higgins said.
|Tye McGinn (2) ASST: Nicklas Grossmann (1), Erik Gustafsson (1)|
1 - 0 PHI
|Ryan Kesler (2) ASST: Jannik Hansen (1), Christopher Tanev (3)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Tye McGinn (3) ASST: Claude Giroux (2), Jakub Voracek (3)|
2 - 1 PHI
|Chris Higgins (1) ASST: Henrik Sedin (7), Jason Garrison (5)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Ryan Kesler (3) ASST: Chris Higgins (2), Henrik Sedin (8)|
3 - 2 VAN
|Luke Schenn Fighting (maj) against Zack Kassian|
|Zack Kassian Fighting (maj) against Luke Schenn|
|Nicklas Grossmann Hooking against Daniel Sedin|
|Chris Higgins Hooking against Max Talbot|
|Kevin Bieksa Elbowing against Sean Couturier|