The Canucks came out flying in their first and only matchup against Philadelphia this season. Henrik (three assists) and Daniel Sedin (one goal, one assist) combined for five points and Kesler added three of his own (2 goals, 1 assist) as Vancouver handily defeated the Flyers 6-2 at Rogers Arena.
Battling at both ends, the Canucks forced the Flyers – who where playing their first game since December 20 – to match their speed, energy, and physicality.
Manny Malhotra opened scoring, expertly directing a blast from Christian Ehrhoff past Brian Boucher at 15:46 of the first.
Vancouver was only up 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes, but shots spoke louder than goals, favouring the Canucks 22-8. The pressure continued into the the next two periods as the Canucks built a lead too big for Philly to overcome.
"We jumped on them early," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "Our best period was the first period by far. We played really well at both ends of the rink, didn't give them much offensively, and we generated I think ten grade-A scoring chances.
"Their goaltender kept them in, but sooner or later when you get those quality chances it's going to pay off and it did early on in the second."
The pronounced physical element of the matchup was evident early. Despite their infrequent meetings, it didn't take long for tensions to boil over. With mere seconds left in the first, Aaron Volpatti went head to head with Flyers Sean O'Donnell, the pair exchanging blows that brought the crowd to their feet.
The middle period picked up right where the first ended. Fans were still filing back to their seats when Kesler netted his 18th of the season. A minute and a half later, a patient Alex Burrows fed Daniel who made no mistake finding the back of the net to put the Canucks up by three.
Danny Briere responded for Philly, slipping one past Roberto Luongo. The Canucks netminder didn't miss a beat, returning to action after a rare two-game break. Only letting in one more, his trademark glove save was on display as he turned away 35 shots.
The action packed second continued at a blink-and-you've-missed-something pace, as Kesler registered a powerplay goal – extending his point streak, which now boasts seven goals and seven assists to eight games. It was enough to send Boucher to the bench in favour of Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Canucks opened the final period much like the previous as Jannik Hansen solved Bobrovsky, padding the 5-1 lead with a little help from the Sedins. Jeff Tambellini notched the final Vancouver goal, his ninth of the season.
"It was a big test for us, we want to measure ourselves against the best and we knew these guys are at the top, so we wanted to come out, have a good game, set a good tempo early," said Luongo. "I think we had a huge first period that really carried us.
"It was a huge game no doubt. We played well, we kept the pressure on pretty much the whole game. Against teams like that you don't want to sit back and try to let them get back in the game.
The game had it all, and was fast and furious down to the dying seconds. Every Vancouver player except Andrew Alberts registered a shot, including nine from Tambellini for a total of 49 to Philadelphia's 37.
Icing a near flawless game, the Canucks now sit one point behind Detroit, the Western Conference leaders.
The Canucks haven't lost in regulation in ten games and extended their winning streak at home to four straight. But tonight's win over Philadelphia also brought the end to a different kind of streak.
It dates back to January 17, 1989. This was the last time the Canucks defeated the Flyers in Vancouver. The Sedins were eight years old.
Tonight in front of a sold out crowd at Rogers Arena, the Canucks not only handed the Broad Street Bullies a decisive loss, they effectively snapped that streak.
The Canucks (22-8-5) and the Flyers (21-9-5) are both battling for top spots in their conferences. The Philly team was rolling coming into Vancouver having gone 7-1-2 in their last ten games on the road. But after 60 minutes there was no question who was the better team tonight. And in soaring to a 6-2 win, the Canucks broke the 22 season streak.
Tonight's game honoured four members of the Canucks family who were extraordinary individuals that tragically passed before their time. Wayne Maki, Larry Ashley, Gary Lupul, and Luc Bourdon all spent time in Vancouver and left lasting marks on the club. Read the full story here.