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Back on Track

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
When his name was announced in the starting lineup, visiting goaltender Martin Brodeur received a loud ovation from the General Motors Place crowd.

Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins made sure that was the high point of Brodeur’s evening.

What was billed as a showdown between the top two goaltenders in the National Hockey League turned out to be anything but as Naslund scored twice and Henrik and Daniel combined for five assists in a 5-0 rout of New Jersey.

Roberto Luongo made 32 saves in his return to the lineup and was the game’s first star. The Vancouver goaltender had missed the previous four contests with bruised ribs.

But as solid, not spectacular, as Luongo was, the real story Tuesday night was the resurrection of Vancouver’s top line.

Naslund came into this affair in a nine-game goal-scoring drought. Daniel had just one goal and one assist in his last five games. Ditto for Henrik.

But the trio put all that behind them, as Naslund finished off a pretty three-way passing play midway through the second and struck again in the third after Daniel displayed some tremendous patience.

“You go through stretches when you just can’t score but I think the key is to do the right things and it’s eventually going to go in,” said Naslund. “We generated a lot from the rush and I think we need to do a lot more of that.”

One of those plays off the rush led to Naslund’s first tally of the night.

Henrik carried the puck into the New Jersey zone and flipped a saucer pass to brother Daniel. Daniel then turned and threw a cross-ice pass to a streaking Naslund who fired the puck past Brodeur in one motion. Tic-tac-toe.

“It was a beautiful play by the twins,” said Naslund. “You just have to be ready when the puck comes.”

Vancouver’s head coach was glad to see his offensive weapons again firing on all cylinders.

“I think we haven’t hidden the issue that we need their offensive production,” said Alain Vigneault. “We need them to produce … and that’s what happened tonight and for some reason Marty [Brodeur] was a little bit off his game.”

While Brodeur at times looked awful, particularly on Trevor Linden’s third goal of the season, he could do nothing about Naslund’s third period marker.

Daniel took control of the puck deep in the slot and delayed to his forehand, pulling Brodeur away from his net. Daniel then threw the puck back out front to Naslund who simply had to hit the cage.

Ryan Kesler, who potted his ninth goal of the season on a brilliant second effort in the middle frame, said it was important for Vancouver’s top line to get back on track.

“They had a great night tonight,” said Kesler. “When they’re going the whole team seems to be going so it’s good to see them going again.”

Naslund and the Sedins each finished +3 as they were also on the ice for Vancouver’s first goal of the night. Only Henrik, however, drew an assist as he won the faceoff back to Aaron Miller who slapped the puck off a New Jersey skate past Brodeur. Miller’s goal was his first since November 27, 2003 against Phoenix.

It was only fitting that on a night when Naslund and the Sedins were so impressive they set up a defenseman who hadn’t scored in 193 games and made him look like Al MacInnis.

Everything they did on the ice was magical.

1 – Goal allowed by Roberto Luongo in his last five home games. Just stop and think about that for a second.

3 – Blocked shots for Alex Edler to lead all skaters.

5 – Minutes for fighting for Mike Brown, who took on Arron Asham early in the first period. Brown and Asham both landed several hard right hands in a bout that brought the crowd to its feet.

20 – Times the Devils shot wide of the Vancouver net. In comparison, the Canucks missed the New Jersey net only six times. Must have been the jet lag.

70 – Percent of the faceoffs Jason Jaffray took, he won (7-for-10).

Five goals from three lines is more than enough offense for this Vancouver team. The only line that didn’t click was the Jaffray-Pyatt-Raymond group and even they had moments when they looked dangerous.

Hard to find fault with the defense when it registers a shutout. Most of Luongo’s 32 saves weren’t especially difficult and the defense did well to clear both rebounds and traffic from the front of the net.

The PP’s 0-for-5 is a little deceiving as all but one of those powerplays came in the third period when the game was already decided. The penalty kill was 6-for-6 and bailed out Alex Burrows after the Vancouver winger took a double-minor for roughing.
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