The veteran forward, who was demoted to Vancouver’s third line after picking up only a pair of assists in four games playing with the Sedins, was back to the Samuelsson that Canucks became accustomed to last season with three points to lead the Canucks to a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at Rogers Arena Sunday.
Skating alongside Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra, Samuelsson assisted on Vancouver’s opening two goals in the first period before adding some insurance with his first score of the season, a one-timer off a crisp cross-ice pass from Tanner Glass.
“It took the pressure off my back,” joked Samuelsson of not playing with the Sedins.
“You get a little more on edge when they change up your lines and sometimes it’s good and I actually like to play with two big strong guys like Malhotra and Torres and I think we worked good together.”
Samuelsson wasn’t the only Canucks forward to bump his scoring slump as Mason Raymond picked up his first two goals of the season and added an assist skating on the top trio with Daniel and Henrik and Ryan Kesler finally tickled the twine for his first of the campaign.
Vancouver came into the contest with goals from three players and points from eight and left it with seven players having scored and points spread across 13 skaters.
It was a big five-goal performance for the Canucks.
“It’s tough, we’re not off to the start we want I guess, but I thought we played our best 60 minute game tonight,” said Raymond. “We’ve had a lot of good games but haven’t had the outcome and I felt like we’ve been snake bitten a bit, but that’s the past, we played well tonight, we did the things I think that make us successful, good on special teams, and we’ve got to carry that into Minnesota.”
Cory Schneider started in goal for Roberto Luongo and he stepped up to the plate in a 32-save performance for his first NHL win in 22 months.
“I didn’t win one last year so when you get one a year, it’s tough to pile them up,” laughed Schneider.
“It’s great, it’s a good feeling and I thought we played a real good team game and that’s something we’ve been looking for all season and just kind of had a few bounces and some guys scored some big goals.”
Ten Canucks had a least a point against the Hurricanes, including the Sedins, who combined for three assists to put their season points total at 14. Both Daniel and Henrik have points in every game this year.
When Mason Raymond took to the ice alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin for the game’s opening faceoff, he had one goal in mind: produce.
Raymond did just that as he put points on the board for the first time this season, two goals and an assist in total to put him at 100 career points, while benefiting from skating with the Sedins all night long.
The right-winger's first goal came on the power play without a Sedin in sight, but his second tally of the night was vintage twins. Henrik backhanded the puck to Daniel behind the Carolina goal, he swung it out front to Raymond for a quick one-timer past Cam Ward.
It’s only one game, as Raymond pointed out, but it was quite a debut on the top line.
“Those guys are some great players, it’s hard to fill Alex Burrows’ shoes, but things went well, we made some good plays, so we’ll see what happens the rest of the way,” said Raymond, adding that it’s a relief to score and avoid a lengthy goalless drought to open the year like the nine-gamer he endured to open last season.
“I think we felt that we’ve had some good chances, but to actually get one feels, it’s cliché, but like the monkey off the back, and more importantly we got the win.”
If Raymond remains on the top line going forward, he’ll become the eighth player to play with the Sedins behind Trent Klatt, Magnus Arvedson, Jason King, Anson Carter, Taylor Pyatt, Alex Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson.
More important than the win, more important than the 32 saves, more important than third-star honours, Cory Schneider proved he can fill-in between the pipes for the Canucks.
This may have only been the fifth game of the season, but with Vancouver struggling out of the gate at 1-2-1 and the offence sputtering, the team could ill afford another loss, especially on home ice.
Still, the team turned to Schneider and he returned the favour with a big victory.
“I thought we played very well as a unit, but for me to come out and get a win and try to get some confidence in my teammates and the staff, I think that’s good for me,” said Schneider, who hadn’t started a game in Vancouver since losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on December 30, 2008.
Opportunity is all Schneider is looking for as he started only two games last year and has backed the Canucks for a mere six games over the past two seasons, including his previous last win as a starter on December 14, 2008.
This defeat of the Hurricanes will go along way in cutting down the time between starts for Schneider.
“Part of my job right now is to be a viable option, if I can’t get the job done then they really have no choice than to play Roberto lots so I think part of my job is to just show that I’m capable of handling 20 games and allowing them to give Roberto a rest when he needs it.”
This was only the fifth time in the last three years that someone other than Luongo had started a home game with the starting goalie healthy, a trend sure to change.
Manny Malhotra continues his domination of the faceoff circle finishing 15-for-16 at the dot; Aaron Rome started in place of injured defenceman Keith Ballard as he sat out with a concussion after playing 250 consecutive games; With pop star Justin Bieber in Vancouver for a concert at Rogers Arena Tuesday night, rumours were swirling before puck drop that he would be singing the national anthem. Much to the dismay of the 20 tweens in the suite next to the press box, thumbs eager to tweet, cameras ready to flash, voices ready to strain, it was longtime anthem singer Richard Loney who belted out the national anthems.