RALEIGH, N.C. -- One day after surrendering two power-play goals in a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks regained the form that has made them the top penalty-killing team in the NHL.
The Canucks killed all 11:33 of the Carolina Hurricanes' power-play time, including a stretch of 5:33 consecutively, in a 3-2 win Sunday.
Protecting the 3-2 lead in the second, Vancouver killed off a high-sticking double minor to Daniel Sedin and Brad Richardson's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The long stretch included 27 seconds of a two-man advantage for Carolina, but the Canucks were solid throughout. Vancouver managed to clear the defensive zone 13 times.
"We were really good on their entries," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It didn't seem like they had too many clean entries. When you're getting pucks down the ice and they're turning around and chasing, they get tired. So we wore them down."
The turnaround from the performance Saturday in New York pleased coach John Tortorella, whose PK unit improved on its 88-percent efficiency rate.
"It was god-awful [Saturday] afternoon, and really one of the few times it has been this year," Tortorella said. "But [Sunday] it was outstanding. We had to kill a lot off. We struggled a bit to get the momentum back after those penalties, but I thought our power play and our penalty kill were the key to the win."
The power play cashed in quickly at the start of the game. Skating 5-on-3, Ryan Kesler struck 10 seconds into the man advantage at 3:24 with his 11th goal. Hurricanes defenseman Mike Komisarek had put the Hurricanes down two skaters when his clearing pass sailed over the glass behind the Vancouver goal.
"When you score two quick ones in a road game, it backs them off a bit," Kesler said. "You've got to give them credit though. They came back in the second and it was a whole new hockey game."
The Hurricanes struck twice in the first minute of the second period. Jordan Staal jammed home a loose puck in the crease at 39 seconds and Nathan Gerbe beat Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack with a short-side goal 10 seconds later.
"The second one, I feel like I should have had it for sure," Lack said. "After that, I [tried] to keep focusing on the next shot, the next save."
Vancouver reclaimed the lead 27 seconds later when Kesler scored his second goal of the game. Chris Higgins carried the puck behind the net and shoveled it in front, where Kesler scored again, this time at the top of the crease.
A short time later, the Vancouver penalty kill went to work. Dan Hamhuis led the Canucks with 7:23 of short-handed ice time and contributed three blocked shots.
"It's a role that I've always enjoyed throughout my career," said Hamhuis, who logged a game-high 26:13. "I like that underdog feeling of having to kill it. I'm playing alongside some really good penalty killers on our team."
Hamhuis said the key to the team's penalty kill is having a well-schooled group.
"We study the other teams quite well," he said. "We know their tendencies. We have guys that are smart that read the plays and get in good position. We're a committed group that's willing to block shots. You always need a good goalie too to have a successful penalty kill, and we've had that."
Vancouver's determined penalty kill left the Hurricanes with more questions than answers. Carolina's power play came into the game ranked 27th in the NHL. The Hurricanes managed eight shots with the man advantage, leaving coach Kirk Muller to question his team's commitment.
“They have a lot of guys who have been together for a while, so they are in sync,” Muller said of Vancouver’s penalty kill. “But it’s two things: It’s desperation and it’s execution. We’ve been talking about it for a long time but our guys [need to] understand you have to play like our last shift, where we all of the sudden got desperate and almost scored. When you get a chance, the guys have to execute, and if you can’t execute I guess then we’ve got to start looking for other guys in our lineup and give them the opportunity."
Muller's frustration seems to be growing. The loss came two days after the Hurricanes gave up four third-period goals in a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. In that game, Carolina posted a season-low 18 shots and followed up with a four-shot first period against the Canucks.
"They pushed us out of the first period," Muller said. "They won more battles, they were more competitive. They owned around our net [Sunday]. We had one shot from our forwards. All that stuff adds up. That's not good enough."
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