Vancouver's third line of Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler
and Jannik Hansen
was slightly overlooked by the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, and for good reason. Why worry about the workhorses when the top two lines of the Canucks are the ones who are supposed to score the goals?
Kesler, Burrows and Hansen answered that question with authority as they tallied three goals, had four points and were a plus-8 in a stirring 4-3 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Burrows led the way for the Canucks as he first assisted on the opening goal of the game - it was off a shot that missed the net and luckily found its way to Hansen who tucked in his first NHL goal, but it still counts - before he lit up the Motor City with an individual overtime effort for the ages.
Just :27 seconds into the extra frame, Burrows bullied his way into the Detroit zone with two Wings draped all over him. They ran enough interference that the Quebec native couldn't get a clean shot off as it sailed left and hit the boards, yet just like his lone assist in the game, the puck came back towards him and he was able to get to it and rifle it under Chris Osgood's right arm for the game's golden goal.
Just like that Burrows had his sixth game-winning goal and the first overtime winner of his career.
Normally called upon to irritate the opponent's top-line, Burrows and company put the Canucks on their shoulders and led them to this character building win, of which the importance cannot be stressed enough with Vancouver having just lost a lopsided game in Washington.
Burrows now has three goals this season to go along with two assists, his inspiring style of play is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Canucks and he has no problem with being detested by his opponents for his hard-nosed approach to the game. He's not out there to make friends.
"I don't mind it, I got a lot of teammates on the ice on my side that like me," laughed Burrows. "I've got 20 friends so that's all I need."
Vancouver's third line now has a combined 11 points this season (6-5-11), that's seven more points than the Canucks' second line of Pavol Demitra, Mason Rayond and Taylor Pyatt (2-2-4) and only one less than the team's top line as the Sedins and Bernier have strung together 12 points (4-8-12).
Third lines are intended to provide offence from time to time, but early on Vancouver's trio is doing a lot more heavy lifting than anyone expected.
Burrows and Kesler look rejuvenated offensively and a lot of the thanks has to go to Hansen. A Manitoba Moose a year ago, the Danish delight looks to be the third line's missing cog.
"Obviously Burrows and Kesler are used to playing with one another and Jannik Hansen
had a great pre-season so we tried him on the right side for the last couple of exhibition games and it worked real well," said coach Alain Vigneault.
Vancouver was outshot 35-29 by Detroit, and just to further stress the dominance of the HBK trio on this night, Hansen, Burrows and Kesler registered 11 shots on net, one more than the entire Canucks team had three nights ago against the Capitals.
One of Kesler's three shots bulged the twine, it was more of a tip than a shot actually as the Michigan product redirected a Shane O'Brien blast to put the Canucks ahead 2-1 midway through the opening period.
"It never gets old," said Kesler, of scoring on home turf.
"I scored here a couple of years ago and it's the same feeling, scoring in front of family and friends is a feeling you can't describe."
Kesler now has four goals against the Wings in his career, he scored twice in a 4-1 win over Detroit last season and once in a 4-3 Vancouver victory during the 2006-07 season.
There will certainly be a lot of hoopla surrounding the third line's outstanding performance against Detroit, Roberto Luongo
and coach Vigneault should also be heartily congratulated as well as this win was Vigneault's 200th behind the bench and Louie's 200th in net.
Vancouver continues it's current six-game road trip with a stop in Buffalo on Friday, a quick night's rest and ideally there will be some more third line magic once again tomorrow night against the Sabres.