Kesler scored the game-tying goal with 21.5 seconds remaining in the third period to help the Canucks tie the Anaheim Ducks 4-4 en route to a 5-4 shootout win, Vancouver’s first of the season.
The victory, which improves Vancouver’s record to 15-8-3, was the team’s first comeback win of the year and counts as its fifth win in six games.
In the big picture of this season, this win might very well be remembered as a significant one.
“We went into that third knowing that we hadn’t come back after going into the third when being down, so we knew we wanted to get that one,” said Kesler, who finished with three points on the night, none bigger than his game-tying goal.
After Ryan Getzlaf iced the puck with less than 30 seconds to play, Manny Malhotra beat him on the ensuing faceoff in the Anaheim zone leading to a scramble at the right of Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, who replaced an injured Curtis McElhinney late in the third.
Kesler had a few whacks at the puck before knocking it under Hiller from his knees to send Vancouver's bench and the Canucks faithful at Rogers Arena into a frenzy.
“I had a couple quality chances in front there and I think it was my fourth chance where I got it in,” said Kesler. “A little lucky, but it all stems from hard work from all the guys on the ice.”
With one point in the bag, the Canucks went for the jugular in overtime outshooting the Ducks 6-3 before a shootout was needed to settle the score.
Jeff Tambellini, already with a first period goal to his credit, was the first shooter and his top shelf laser beam over Hiller’s shoulder counted as the game-winner with Kesler and Daniel Sedin missing on their attempts and Roberto Luongo standing tall on all three shots faced.
“It was a good challenge for our group,” said Tambellini. “We came in here after two down one and I don’t think we’d come back this year and we wanted to know that can do it and we have a solid group of guys and there was no panic on our bench, so a lot of credit goes to our group.”
There was no hesitation in Tambellini’s perfect wrist shot in the shootout, partially because he caught the highlights of the 10-round shootout between the Edmonton Oilers and Ducks from a night prior.
“I was lucky we got to see 10 shots last night from Edmonton,” smiled Tambellini. “Cogliano kind of had the same shot last night and he hit the cross bar, so I figured I’d try the same thing.”
Tambellini continues to do no wrong for the Canucks as the team improves to 10-1-1 with the forward in the line-up; Vancouver is also 5-0-0 when he finds the back of the net.
Not to be outdone is the hero of the night as the Canucks boast a flawless 9-0-0 record when Kesler scores.
Vancouver finished 2-for-6 on the power play with Kesler and Daniel Sedin both scoring on the man advantage.
Roberto Luongo had a reason for hating shootouts prior to beating the Ducks.
He might have to re-think his poetic diss of the one-on-one battle after not allowing a single goal in the shootout to back the Canucks to the 5-4 win.
Luongo got a piece of Joffrey Lupul’s shot and squeezed the pads tight to stop Corey Perry’s blast, the only shot he can’t take credit for stopping is Teemu Selanne’s wrist shot that flew high and wide. Still, Selanne’s shot counts as a save and after allowing five goals on five attempts in two earlier shootouts this season, Luongo is back.
“Have I told you guys how much I love shootouts? I love shootouts,” joked Luongo.
“It was a rough game, a rough shootout, so it’s nice to be able to contribute in some way there. It was a tough game, but I stuck with it and made a couple of saves in overtime and obviously my teammates bailed me out with two goals late in the third.”
The Canucks led the NHL in comebacks last season with 11; Mikael Samuelsson, who left Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues in the third period after colliding with Vladimir Sobotka, missed his first game of the season and is expected to be out at least a week with what coach Alain Vigneault called a “mild concussion.”; Jonas Andersson made his Canucks debut playing on Vancouver’s fourth line with Tanner Glass and Alex Bolduc, it was his first NHL game since 2002 with the Nashville Predators.