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Returning the favour

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
What a difference 32 days makes.

In Mats Sundin’s home debut on Jan. 9, the Vancouver Canucks were coming off an impressive win looking to make it back-to-back jacks against the St. Louis Blues.

That script was altered when instead of Sundin being the hero late in a seesaw affair, he took a penalty that led to the Blues game-winning goal and a 6-4 Canucks loss.

That was the start of the streak and the beginning of a downpour of criticism on Sundin.

These days everyone is talking about Sundin for all the right reasons following a revengeful 6-4 win for the Canucks against those same Blues.

On Tuesday night, the power forward put together another stellar outing in which he not only dented the scoreboard twice, but also took care of the little things as his intangibles were on full display.

It began with the Canucks on the power play, down 2-0, just under four minutes into the second frame. Sundin, set up on the left hash marks in the St. Louis zone, took a back pass from Mattias Ohlund and eluded defenceman Tyson Strachan before darting towards the net.

As he hit the face off dot, Sundin dished the puck to Kevin Bieksa down main street, who in turn scooped it over Pavol Demitra, ready and waiting to fire a one-timer from the right side.

His rocket hit the post but stayed behind Chris Mason, allowing Sundin, who had forcefully gained position in front on a helpless Strachan, to tap it in.

Sundin then gave Strachan a few shots as a scrum ensued in the goalmouth and the Canucks came to life.

Not finished there, Sundin once again put Vancouver on his back with the team now trailing 3-1 midway through the period.

Ryan Kesler hustled his way in deep and waffled the puck through the crease, it ended up on the tape of Bieksa and he let go a blast.

Sundin, reading the play like only a wiley veteran can, had circled the net and was in perfect position when the rebound bounced his way.

With a millisecond to shoot, Alexander Steen closing in and Mason sprawling to recover, Sundin kept his cool and let loose a bottle bumper top shelf.

Feeding off Sundin’s alacrity and poise, the Canucks never rolled over as they trailed or were tied with the Blues for 52 minutes on this night before gutting out the much deserved win.

“Wins like this are nice,” said Sundin, who now has six goals and four assists on the season and is in the midst of a three-game point streak having amassed four goals and three helpers in Vancouver’s current three-game winning streak.

“You come from behind and you’re pretty much behind the whole game and once we tied it up they came back and scored and then we got the lead and were able to win it, so I thought we showed a lot of character.”

The explosive line of Sundin, Kesler and Demitra, came away with seven points against the Blues and at least one linemate was involved in four of Vancouver’s six goals.

That trio now has 22 points (9-13-22) in the past three games, all wins; they are undeniably the reason the Canucks are on such a roll right now.

“They’re two great players,” Sundin said of Kesler and Demitra. “Ryan is certainly having a breakthrough season and I think Pavol has been around in the game for a long time, it’s easy to play with him because he understands where to go on the ice.

“Saying that, we’ve been able to get some production and it’s going to be important for our line because the Sedin twins are going to keep producing and being the top line so we have to make sure that we’re supporting them a try to get some points too.”

The leadership Sundin has provided these past few games has also been essential to the team’s turnaround. Against the Blues he was 14-for-24 on face-offs, winning some key draws that led to scoring chances.

Sundin also took care of the small things, like when he picked the pocket of Jay McClement along the boards with the Canucks on the power play seven minutes into the third. He used his long reach to keep the rubber in the zone and three passes later that puck was in the back of the net courtesy of a Kesler wrist shot.

“He’s been a presence from day one, every time he’s out there you know the other team is going to have an eye on him and he creates so much space for whoever he’s playing with,” said Jannik Hansen.

Sundin was indeed the catalyst, but Hansen also played a big part in this win. He scored his clutchest goal as a Canuck when he broke the 4-4 tie with 4:42 remaining in the third period after some inspired digging at the side of the St. Louis net.

It took Hansen two whacks to sneak the puck past Mason and it was well worth the effort as it was the first game-winner of his young career.

“It’s always nice to score, especially when it’s an important goal,” said Hansen.

“It doesn’t really matter who scores, but it’s two huge points and we know we got 29 games left here in the regular season and every two points is very important.”

The Canucks will practice Wednesday before playing back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday in Phoenix and Dallas.

2 – Goals for Mats Sundin in another solid outing for the wiley veteran

  3 – Game-winning streak for the Canucks, the team's first since November

7 - Points (4-3-7) between the line of Sundin, Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra

– Wins for the Canucks this season when scoring four-or-more goals in a game (16-2-2)

58 – Sundin's face-off percentage, he went 14-for-24

Mats Sundin led the charge early in the second and the Canucks picked up the pace from there.

The trio of Sundin, Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra has been destructive over the last three games having compiled 22 points in providing the secondary scoring Canucks fans have been dreaming of.

The Sedins were also fireballs on this night, although they didn't get any bounces; the effort was definitely there.

Vancouver outshot St. Louis 30-28.

As much as Sundin led the offence, Kevin Bieksa thrived on defence.

He was scrappy and relentless as passion oozed from his pores in trying to shut down the Blues.

Obviously there is still work to be done for the unit as a whole as the Canucks made a few mistakes in their own zone and it led to St. Louis goals.

The Canucks struggled to keep the Blues from scoring on the power play as they had two goals on the man advantage by early in the second period, so Vancouver smartened up and stopped taking penalties.

St. Louis was 2-for-3 overall, but weren't given any chances to score on the power play from the midway point of the game and on.

The Canucks responded with a masterful 2-for-5 outing on special teams. Vancouver scored its second and third goals on the PP and now has 10 power play goals in the last five games (10-for-26).
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