VANCOUVER (CP) - Brendan Morrison has plenty of critics in Vancouver for not scoring enough. After Saturday's performance, there may be a few less of them.
Morrison scored twice as the Canucks defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 before a sellout crowd of 18,630 at General Motors Place.
"It's always nice to contribute," said Morrison. "It feels good to score goals. That's a big part of my game, providing offence."
The win moved Vancouver (31-21-4) into a three-way tie for first place in the Northwest Division with the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild.
The Canucks' win against the Southeast Division-leading Thrashers (30-19-9) also made up for being shut out by the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
"We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could bounce back from a mediocre performance," said Morrison, who now has 14 goals on the season.
Markus Naslund scored Vancouver's other goal as the Canucks remained undefeated in four games against Southeast Division teams. Vancouver fan favourite Trevor Linden added two assists.
Jon Sim and Ilya Kovalchuk replied for Atlanta, which was outshot 33-29.
It was the teams' first meeting since Feb. 13, 2004, a result of the lockout in 2004-05 and rare East-West crossovers in NHL scheduling.
Morrison gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead 1:44 into the game as he fired home Linden's short pass from the right-wing boards as Vancouver outshot the offensively-gifted Thrasher 12-6 in the first 20 minutes.
Vancouver's lead could have been higher, but Brad Moran and Mattias Ohlund both hit goalposts.
"That's as good a start as you're going to see from our team," said Morrison. "We hit a couple of posts early, we had a lot of good chances and we tried to jump on them early and I think we did a good job."
Naslund put the Canucks ahead 2-0 at 9:02 of the second period as he fired in a slapshot from the point after taking a pass from Moran during a Canucks power play. Bobby Holik was off for holding at the time.
The assist was Moran's first NHL point since Jan. 27, 2004, when he had his only other two NHL points, a goal and an assist, as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It was pretty nice," said Moran about getting on the scoresheet.
"I just gave it to Markus (Naslund) and let him do the rest."
Moran, a native of Abbotsford, B.C., was called up Friday from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, where he was the club's leading scorer.
"You get a little bit of jump in your step as soon as you hear the phone," said Moran.
A former star with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, Moran, 27, has struggled to stick in the NHL after turning pro in 2000-01 in the Buffalo organization.
He toiled with Langnau in Switzerland last season.
"He did a really good job of providing energy for our team," said Morrison. "He was real quick out there and exciting every time he (got) the puck."
The same could have been said of Morrison, who excelled on a line with Linden and Matt Cooke.
"(Morrison's) line tonight, I thought, was good," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "Those three guys seemed to play well together, seemed to have a lot of confidence."
Only 10 seconds after Naslund's goal, Morrison gave the Canucks a 3-0 lead, on a mid-air deflection of Sami Salo's point shot past Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen.
"I was just lucky enough to get it up over his blocker," said Morrison.
But Sim reduced Atlanta's deficit to 3-1 about four minutes later as he backhanded his own rebound past Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Kovalchuk brought the Thrashers to within 3-2 during a five-on-three power play at 14:31 of the third period as he fired a high slapshot from the blue-line past Luongo. Kovalchuk's 32nd goal of the season came after Atlanta coach Bob Hartley called a timeout 59 seconds earlier to rally his squad after Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund was penalized for holding and Matt Cooke was already in the box for tripping.
"I thought it would be good for the boys," said Hartley. "I thought the execution was good. Kovi took a great shot and Luongo had no chance."
But Kovalchuk was not overly impressed with his club's late comeback bid.
"We didn't play our best hockey tonight," he said.
NOTES: Forward Brandon Reid also played for Vancouver after being called up from Manitoba on Friday. . . . Canucks winger Jan Bulis sat out with a sore shoulder while struggling centre Marc Chouinard was a healthy scratch. . . . The Thrashers acquired forward Eric Belanger from the Nashville Predators on Saturday in exchange for defenceman Vitaly Vishnevski. It was the second time in two days that Belanger was traded. On Friday, he was sent to Atlanta from the Carolina Hurricanes for Josef Vasicek. The Thrashers also claimed forward Denis Hamel off waivers from Ottawa on Saturday. . . . Atlanta centre Steve Rucchin sat out after he sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury in the second period of Thursday's game against Colorado.