Already ahead 2-1, the Canucks came out with guns blazing to start the third period and two goals in 71 seconds to open the frame lifted Vancouver to a 6-2 win over the Ottawa Senators Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.
Ryan Kesler led the charge with a pair of goals and Alex Burrows, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Tanner Glass also chipped in with two points each, while 12 Canucks had at least a point, to help Vancouver win its seventh game in eight tries and improve to 9-4-2.
The second game of Vancouver’s longest road trip of the season, a five-game jaunt out east, began with Daniel Sedin opening the scoring just 22 seconds in. Peter Regin replied a little over three minutes later and it wasn’t until midway through the second that the Canucks were able to reclaim the lead.
Jannik Hansen hit Kesler with a pass in front of the Ottawa goal and the Canucks forward was patient outlasting Pascal LeClaire and wrapping the puck around the outstretched goalie to put Vancouver up 2-1 in a game that was still up for grabs with 20 minutes remaining.
So what was said in between the second and third periods?
“We came in after the second knowing that we’re in that game and if we kept playing the way we were playing and kept getting better every shift, that we were going to win the game,” said Kesler.
The Canucks followed that up with two goals in the first 1:11 of the third period with Burrows scoring his first of the season and Kesler picking up his second of the night and seventh of the year to put the game out of reach.
“We had the start we wanted, then we kind of fell off and we really just re-established ourselves at the end of the first and we continued with it in the second and we played a pretty good third,” assessed Kesler.
Up 4-1 early in the third, Vancouver’s bottom lines saw a bump in ice time and the fourth trio rewarded Vigneault for it by putting the icing on the cake of his 300th NHL win.
Tanner Glass roofed a rebound off an Andrew Alberts shot for his first goal of the season and Mario Bliznak, in his first game since being recalled from the Manitoba Moose, shadowed that with his first NHL goal and point.
A lot of things went right for the Canucks two nights after so many things went wrong and Vancouver had Roberto Luongo’s play to partially thank for that. Luongo made 33 saves, including 19 in the first half of the game with his team struggling to find its legs, and allowed two goals or less for the second straight game and sixth time this season.
Tough to criticize such a complete effort, but Kesler, who was knocking on the door of his first career hat trick, had to settle for his 10th multi-goal game. He had the hat trick goal on his stick with 12 minutes to play and the Canucks shorthanded, but couldn’t beat LeClaire’s left post.
“Still no hat trick,” laughed Kesler. “He was playing a little deep in his net and I had the corner, an inch lower and that’s a goal. The important thing is that it wasn’t overtime and we weren’t losing by a goal. It’ll come in due time.”
Some might consider the late stages of a blow out game garbage time, but Mario Bliznak is definitely not one of those players.
The 23-year-old Slovakian centre, who was recalled Wednesday from the Manitoba Moose where he had a goal and three assists in 14 games to start the season, dressed in place of Peter Schaefer on Vancouver’s fourth line in his third career NHL game and he made the most of it.
Bliznak was thought to have assisted on Glass’ first goal of the season before the helper was striped, so instead he scored the first goal of his NHL career a few minutes later.
With Glass flying down the left wing, Bliznak went down main street and got position on his defender, and when Glass flipped the puck over, Bliznak displayed deft hand-eye coordination batting it into the net.
The look of excitement on his face said it all.
“It feels great, it feels great to score the first one,” said Bliznak. “It was four-on-four and a bit of a lucky play, but I’ll take it.”
Bliznak, Glass and Rick Rypien combined for four points and five hits in the win and it was evident the trio was picking up steam as the game went on.
“I was a little bit nervous, then after a couple of shifts I got used to the pace and the speed of the game. After we got a couple of shifts in, they scored on our line, but finally we got going in the third period and we scored a couple goals.”
The Canucks are used to getting the applause, but Thursday morning they were dishing it out.
Opting out of their pre-game morning skate to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Canucks, minus five players, observed service and paid tribute to Canada’s veterans.
For Canucks players, coaching staff and management, part of the estimated 30,000 people in attendance, all with poppies proudly over their hearts, the ceremony was a moving affair.
It hit home especially hard for Mason Raymond.
“I just think it’s special for us to come and support Remembrance Day,” said Raymond. “I have a friend that has gone over to Afghanistan and is donating his time over there. I definitely feel pride in being able to come here today.”
General Manager Mike Gillis felt attending the ceremony would do more for his players than any morning skate ever could and few would argue his stance.
“I think it’s important that you don’t lose sight of the fact that life goes on even though you’re playing hockey,” said Gillis. “To remember veterans and be part of this ceremony I thought we be a great idea. I think our coaching staff enjoyed it and there’s something to be said about being part of the community and we all play in Canada and live in Canada, so we thought it would be a good thing to attend.”
Keith Ballard was once again a healthy scratch, he’s now sat out two straight games to start the road trip; a game after being denied a tango by Hal Gill, Rick Rypien fought twice in Ottawa dropping the gloves with Matt Carkner in the first and Chris Neil in the second; of coach Alain Vigneault’s 300 NHL wins, 191 are with the Canucks and 109 came as bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens.