The Canucks veered from their game plan and didn’t look overly impressive Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, but Vancouver stayed true to the cliché that good teams find a way to win by sneaking past Toronto 5-3.
Ryan Kesler recorded his second straight multi-goal game, while Daniel Sedin, Mason Raymond and Dan Hamhuis rounded out the goal scoring for the Canucks; all-in-all six players had two point nights, including Kesler, Daniel Sedin, Raymond, Alex Edler, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Sedin.
The road to a second consecutive victory, seventh straight win over Toronto and Vancouver’s eighth win in nine games started with having to climb out of a hole early as the Canucks were down by a pair of goals less than eight minutes into the first.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin sparked the Canucks in Vancouver’s last visit to Toronto last January and they did it again on this night with Daniel whacking home his 11th goal of the season, on the power play, midway through the first to breath some life into the Canucks.
Kesler converted a perfect cross-ice pass from Samuelsson late in the opening frame to even things up and he gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead a mere 56 seconds into the middle period when he tipped a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere with the man advantage.
With the game at 3-3 in the third period, Raymond simply put the puck on net as he entered the Toronto zone and it somehow eluded Giguere for the game-winner.
A Dan Hamhuis empty net goal, his first as a member of the Canucks, put the finishing touches on what was a scrappy win for Vancouver.
“We didn’t have the start we wanted, but we battled back,” said Kesler, the game’s first star. “We stuck with it and it’s not the way we planned it, but it’s still two points.”
Roberto Luongo deserves his share of praise for the Canucks earning those two points and improving to 10-4-2 through 16 games.
Last year Luongo was pulled in Toronto after giving up three goals on eight shots and early on it looked like déjà vu for the keeper as two of the first four pucks that sailed his way found the back of the net.
Luongo recovered to stop 27 of the next 28 shots, 16 of which came in a frantic third period with the Leafs pushing for a goal, to preserve the win. Saves on Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur with the clock winding down ensured a third consecutive memorable outing for the Canucks in Toronto.
The Canucks were far from their best, but they got the W, which impressed Kesler.
“That’s the sign of a great team. Even if we don’t have our best we’re going to stick to the game plan and grind it out and that’s what we did tonight.”
Kesler’s Movember moustache isn’t the only thing growing this month as the forward’s point total continues to climb skyward as well.
Since starting the season with just one goal and two points in his first seven games, Kesler has picked up eight goals and an assist in nine games and six goals and a helper in this month alone.
For the second straight game though, the first hat trick of his career wasn’t in the cards.
“It’s eluding me,” laughed Kesler, now 11 multi-goal games without a hat trick to his name. “It’s one of those things, it’ll come one of these days, but we’re winning and the boys are playing well, you’ve got to give credit to them.”
Defenceman Keith Ballard was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game; Vancouver’s second line of Kesler, Samuelsson and Raymond combined for six points; the Canucks went 2-for-6 on the power play with four shots; Aaron Rome and Kevin Bieksa are the lone regulars who have yet to score this season.