Returning to the lineup for the first time since missing 38 games with a wrist injury, Brendan Morrison didn’t look out of place as his Vancouver Canucks rallied late and beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in overtime on Monday night.
Morrison logged 8:03 of ice-time on twelve shifts. He fired two shots on former teammate and current Los Angeles King Dan Cloutier and was even for the night.
While those numbers won’t have anyone comparing Mo’s evening to Gretzky in his heyday, they’re a good start for a player still struggling as much with the mental side of being injured as anything else. To say Morrison is unaccustomed to rehabbing is an understatement after the 32-year old had his 542-game ironman streak snapped in December.
“Well, physically, you know, I've been skating now for almost six weeks,” said Morrison. “My legs feel pretty good. You know, it's still different getting into a game but mentally more just engaging in battles and being able to trust myself and have confidence going into those battles that, you know, [the wrist is] not going to slip out or pop out. You know, it's coming along here.”
Morrison was injured during a preseason game against San Jose in September. But he fought through the pain until early December when, coincidentally enough, his Canucks visited the Kings. After posting a -3 in a 4-2 loss at Staples Center, Mo opted for surgery. The Pitt Meadows native’s return comes just as his team is hitting the stretch run.
His penchant for dramatic goals might very well have rubbed off on his teammates Monday night. Appearing destined to lose a game they deserved to win, the Canucks got one goal from Ryan Kesler
with less than three minutes to play, and another just under a minute into overtime to pick up two badly needed points.
According to Morrison, playing a cellar-dweller this late in the season is always a challenge.
“No question. Sometimes these are the toughest games to play because … these guys don't have a lot to play for. I mean, sure the guys are playing for pride, some guys for contracts. You know, at the end of the day they want to score a goal and win the game.”
Morrison started the night on a line with Byron Ritchie and Mason Raymond
. As Raymond moved up to play with Markus Naslund and Matt Pettinger, Morrison found himself on the ice more frequently with Ritchie and Ryan Shannon. Mo and Ritchie, in particular, showed flashes of chemistry.
Early in the third, Ritchie found Morrison along the boards and got him the puck. A hard slapper from Mo – which showed that the wrist is more than functional – was turned aside by Cloutier.
Just a few minutes later, Ritchie delayed at the LA blue line before finally firing a shot at the net just as Morrison reached the crease. As planned, Morrison was right there for the rebound but it fluttered out of his reach.
Mo’s best chance of the night came on a first period powerplay. He took a pass at the goal line and tried to beat Cloutier high, short-side. He nearly succeeded but the Kings netminder got his shoulder up in the nick of time.
Of course, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for Morrison in his return. Shannon found Mo with all kinds of room in the LA zone midway through the second but Morrison took his eye off the puck as it reached him and the pass skipped over his stick. Also in the middle frame, Morrison got away with what looked like a hook on the hands of defenseman Peter Harrold.
But all in all, it was a successful night for Brendan Morrison. He eased his way back into the lineup, took a couple shifts on the powerplay, another on the penalty kill, and looked like a threat.
With him back on the ice, the same can also be said for his team.