The nine-year NHL veteran and former Edmonton Oilers forward recorded his first career hat trick and second game-winning goal in as many nights to lead the streaking Vancouver Canucks to their fourth straight win, a 4-3 victory over the Oilers at Rexall Place Tuesday evening.
Torres picked up two goals in the first period and Daniel Sedin added another to pace the Canucks to a 3-0 lead after the opening period and a 3-1 advantage through two, but after the Oilers climbed back to even the game at 3-3 in the third, Vancouver’s first road win was up in the air.
Just like he did as an Oiler, Torres stepped up and delivered the decisive blow.
With 9:07 remaining in the third, Torres sent a weak backhand shot on net that somehow found its way past Edmonton’s defence and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin for the game-winning goal and the third of Torres’ trick.
“It’s too bad I couldn’t do it when I was playing here, but it’s a nice feeling,” laughed Torres, who was touched by hats hitting the ice to salute his accomplishment, a rarity on the road.
“That was nice, that was nice. I made a lot of good friends here, a lot of good relationships here. Edmonton was nothing but first class while I was playing here so it was nice of them.”
Twelve times Torres had recorded multi-goal games in his career and although it was nice that 13 proved indeed to be lucky for #13, the goal shouldn’t have been needed.
Vancouver was well in control of this contest through 30 minutes before Edmonton flicked a switch and beat Roberto Luongo for a goal midway through the second and two scores 1:40 apart to open the third.
It was anyone’s game late, so for the Canucks, the lone winless road team in the NHL, to come away with their first two points away from Rogers Arena was big, even if dramatics were needed.
“Now that we won the game and battled back, there’s no concern, but yeah, you’ve definitely got to know to shut down games like that going up two goals in the third,” said Torres. “That’s’ just a big win for us coming back after they came back in the third. I think it was an overall big win.”
Roberto Luongo stopped 23 of 26 shots for his fourth victory of the season and third straight, while Kevin Bieksa hit the scoresheet for the first time this year with three assists, one on each Torres goal.
“It’s nice to get on the scoresheet, zeroes across the board gets old after a while looking at it,” said Bieksa. “One of their guys reminded me at the end that it was my first points of the year and I don’t think he meant it in a nice way, but it’s helping the team win and that’s all that’s important.”
A major reason for the Canucks improving to 1-3-1 on the road and 6-3-2 overall to sit atop the Northwest Division for the first time all season is special teams as Vancouver went 2-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the kill.
As mentioned, all eyes were on Alex Burrows coming into the game with the Canucks forward making his return to the Canucks line-up after missing 10 games recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
Burrows, playing in his first game in 175 days, skated on Vancouver’s top line and was reunited with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, with whom he set career-highs in goals (35), assists (32) and points (67) last season.
Back with the twins on this night Burrows was a touch out of rhythm in 15:29 of ice time, including 2:07 on the penalty kill, yet he still managed three shots on goal and a takeaway.
“It was a lot of fun,” Henrik Sedin said of Burrows’ return. “He came right back and worked hard, he finds us out there and he goes to the right areas, so it was a lot of fun.”
Burrows’ hardwork on the night was evident to teammates and on many occasisions he was close to adding to his career points total of 15 (8-7-15) versus Edmonton, his highest output against any team.
“He brings a lot of energy, he gets in on the forecheck well, he finished checks when he can and he plays very well with the twins,” said Kevin Bieksa. “He had a couple of big chances there in front of the net and he’s going to get better as he goes on.”
Roberto Luongo picked up the second assist on the game-winning goal giving one on the season, good for a five-way tie for tops in goalie scoring with teammate Cory Schneider, Carey Price, Antti Niemi and Tim Thomas; Luongo has seven assists as a member of the Canucks; the 10 games missed by Alex Burrows to start the year is the most he’s missed since 2006-07.