Kesler scored a power play goal 1:30 into overtime as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
With 1:20 remaining on Vancouver’s man advantage and 1:34 left on the clock, Henrik Sedin sent Daniel Sedin into the Columbus zone down the left wing. As goaltender Mathieu Garon and three Blue Jackets were thinking shot from Daniel, no one noticed Kesler sneaking in towards the net – except Daniel, who set him up for an easy-one timer in front.
After three two-goal games this season and 12 career multi-goal efforts, Kesler was finally showered with hats for recording the 35th NHL hat trick this season.
Two words: holy shnikes!
“It’s one of those things where it seems like it was meant to be,” smiled Kesler, the third Canucks forward to turn the trick this season.
“I was sniffing for a while to get that third one and not only this year, but last year and I had many games without hat tricks, so it feels good to get one.”
Kesler opened the scoring in the first meeting between Vancouver and Columbus with just 22.9 seconds left in the opening period when he beat Garon with a wicked snap shot.
The Blue Jackets evened the game midway through the second, but 68 seconds later Kesler regained the Canucks lead thanks to an early Christmas present from defenceman Rostislav Klesla who coughed the puck up in front of the Columbus goal handing Kesler another score.
“The second one was obviously kind of lucky,” laughed Kesler, “and it felt like the puck was magnetized to me tonight and it was finding me. Just one of those games where you feel good out there.”
Kesler improved his goal total to 15 on the season with the three goal effort; he's now one back of Daniel Sedin for the team lead and remains third in team scoring with 24 points. On the night Kesler also recorded a hit, nine faceoff wins, a plus-two rating and three blocked shots, the third of which was the forward’s best play of the game, according to Roberto Luongo.
With 3:15 left to play in overtime and Columbus pressing, Kesler dove to block a shot and breakup a 2-on-1. It was similar to a play he made in the third period. Through 29 games, Kesler leads the NHL in blocked shots by a forward with 40.
“He’s massive and the thing I like the most isn’t any of the goals, it’s the backcheck in the third where he dove across and negated a 2-on-1,” said Luongo. “For me that was the nicest play he made all game.”
No matter how many goals Kesler scores, the gritty forward thrives on playing defence, as his back-to-back Selke Trophy nominations indicate.
“I still pride myself on defence and that was my thing that got me into the league and I’m not going to stray away from it. Obviously the offensive game is coming around, but I take a lot of pride in the defence still.”
Since the Canucks shutout the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on December 3rd, they’ve been involved in five consecutive one-goal games and are now 3-1-1 over that stretch.
Overall, Vancouver is 6-3-2 in games decided by a golden goal, good for 21st in the NHL with a win percentage of .462. Last season the Canucks clutched up in one-goal games finishing eighth going 17-8-5.
“It’s obviously a very competitive league,” noted Kesler. “You look at the standings and it’s a gridlock. There’s no really bad teams in this league anymore, they seem like they’re all evenly matched and it’s hard to win hockey games and hard to blow teams out nowadays. One-goal games seem to be the thing nowadays.”
Kesler scored 102 goals in 430 career games with the Canucks before recording a hat trick; the Canucks are seventh in the NHL with a winning percentage of .824 when scoring first, which they’ve done 17 times this season; Daniel Sedin extended his scoring streak to nine games with an assist on Kesler’s game-winner, while Henrik made it five straight with a point.