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Tricked Into Silence

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
After all the talk about the Pinky and the Brain twins, it was Markus Naslund who left the Minnesota Wild seeing red.

Naslund tied a franchise record with his tenth hat-trick as a Canuck as Vancouver knocked off the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

With the game tied at two heading into the third period, captain Naslund put his team on his back and scored twice in the final frame. Naslund’s performance allowed Vancouver to take over top spot in the Northwest Division.

“Once you get the bounces, you kind of relax a little bit more and as a scorer you sometimes need to look for the openings like that,” said Naslund.

A humble Naslund gave much of the credit for his big night to his linemates, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who set up both of his third period markers.

“I can’t say enough good things about playing with Daniel and Henrik,” said Naslund. “They’re two great playmakers and they control the play the whole time so it’s fun to be a part of.”

Teammate Matt Cooke attributed Naslund’s strong play of late to renewed confidence.

“This game is such about confidence,” said Cooke. “Nazzy’s the guy that can find the holes in the net as he did tonight. And I think his confidence came back playing on the powerplay with [the Sedins] and getting a couple of goals, and who knows how high he can fly now?”

The hat-trick tied Naslund with Tony Tanti for all the time Canucks lead.

It was the first time Naslund’s lit the lamp at least three times in a single game since December 9th, 2003 when the captain tallied four goals against Pittsburgh.

Naslund has now scored in four consecutive games for the first time since the 2002-03 season when he rippled the mesh in five consecutive playoff contests. Earlier that season, Naslund scored in six straight regular season games.

Number 19 got things started for Vancouver during a first period powerplay, when he alertly followed up on an Alex Edler slapper that missed the net. As the puck bounced off the boards, Naslund quickly tucked it into the yawning cage before Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding could react.

Naslund’s second goal of the night, which proved to be his 48th career game-winner as a Canuck, consisted of him crashing the net on an odd-man rush and redirecting a Daniel pass into the net.

After the game, Naslund mentioned the importance of taking advantage of odd-man rushes against a stingy Wild team.

“You have to try and take the chances when they’re there,” said Naslund. “And if you get an odd-man rush, try to bury them.”

Such was the case late in the third when Henrik and Naslund broke away on a 2-on-1. Henrik slid the puck over to Naslund, who buried a hard wrister over the glove hand of Harding and into the top corner. The goal gave Vancouver some much needed breathing room and sealed a game that was far different from the one advertised.

All the talk heading in centered around Wild forward Derek Boogaard, after the Minnesota enforcer threatened revenge for Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund slashing Mikko Koivu when the teams last met on November 16th. Ohlund was handed a four-game suspension as a result of the slash.

But as Naslund was quick to point out, Vancouver was far more focused on playing a solid sixty minutes and earning two points than engaging the Wild in a brawl.

“I thought we realized what we had to do, especially against these guys” said Naslund. “There was obviously a lot of hype after what happened last game and we wanted to respond and play a strong game here.”

4 – Hits apiece for Matt Cooke, Luc Bourdon, and Alex Edler in, arguably, Vancouver’s most physical game of the season.

5 – Minutes in penalties for Mike Brown, playing his first game with the big club. Brown fought Aaron Voros midway through the first and more than held his own against a player four inches taller than him.

11 – Wins in 16 faceoff opportunities for Ryan Kesler. Kesler is now 28-for-39 in his last two games in the circle.

20 – Of a possible 22 points have been earned by the Canucks against Northwest Division opponents. Their division record is now 9-0-2.

200 – Career assists for Daniel Sedin, who had two helpers in this one.

The fourth straight game in which Vancouver netted at least four goals.

They’ve scored 18 times over that span. The top two lines created chances for much of the night, but the Morrison-Cooke-Burrows unit was very quiet.

The defense rebounded after a tough night in Edmonton and held Minnesota to just 20 shots.

Curtis Sanford was able to see most of them and didn’t have to make a lot of great saves. Willie Mitchell was strong, playing 24 minutes and blocking four shots.

The powerplay scored one and could have had a second if not for a great defensive play by Martin Skoula.

The penalty kill gave up a goal but a disciplined Vancouver team gave the Wild only three powerplay opportunities.
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