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Canucks return to Vancouver with 5-1 win over Ottawa

by John Kreiser

Vancouver welcomed the Canucks back to GM Place on Saturday night after a 45-day absence due to the Olympic Games. The Canucks did their part to make it a big party.

Mikael Samuelsson continued the best season of his career with a pair of goals and an assist as the Canucks routed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 in their first home game since Jan. 27. Samuelsson, now playing on the top line with the Sedin twins, reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.

"I'm playing with the twins, so I have to get open," he said. "You know you're going to get some chances in the offensive zone. You've got to stay sharp. I watched them from the bench earlier in the season, so I know how to play with them. Sooner or later, you've got to find some holes and jump into them."

Samuelsson said the Canucks fed off the emotion of their return home, as well as a pregame ceremony honoring Olympic medalists -- including the Canucks' gold medal-winning goaltender, Roberto Luongo.

"It was really good emotion," he told Hockey Night in Canada. "It felt really good to be home. The crowd is really good here, but maybe it was a little better tonight than it usually is."

Alex Burrows broke a 1-1 tie with a spectacular shorthanded goal in the second period, and Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo also scored for Vancouver. Jason Spezza went coast-to-coast to tie the game 3:00 into the second period, but that was the lone goal for the Senators, who are 1-4-1 in their last six games and have just four goals in the five losses.

"We're definitely in a position we don't want to be in," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've taken a step back. We've got some soul-searching to do. We've got to find another gear if we want to play this spring."

Senators coach Cory Clouston was very unhappy with his team, which was outshot 35-14 and outplayed by at least that amount.

"There’s not a whole lot to say about that effort," he said. "We weren’t ready to go. They played like it was a playoff game, and we weren’t ready to step our game up.

"Their level was raised, they were excited to be home, they had the fans behind them, and we just weren’t ready to respond to the intensity they came at us with."

The 293rd consecutive sellout of 18,810 fans gave the Canucks a standing ovation when they took the ice and kept roaring throughout the game as their team blew the game open with three goals in less than seven minutes after Spezza tied it.

Vancouver improved to 42-23-3, and 24-7-1 at home, with their seventh win in 10 games. The Canucks extended their Northwest Division lead to five points over second-place Colorado. Ottawa, which has beaten only last-place Edmonton since the Olympic break, dropped to 37-27-5 and missed a chance to tie Buffalo for first in the Northeast Division.

The Canucks rode the emotion of their return to a 17-2 shots advantage in the first period, but the only one to beat Pascal Leclaire came from Samuelsson, who took Pavol Demitra's power-play pass in the slot and zipped it into the net.

Spezza, who scored in Ottawa's 3-1 win over Vancouver last month, tied it when he went the length of the ice, faked out newly acquired defenseman Andrew Alberts and beat Roberto Luongo.

But Burrows put the Canucks ahead to stay at 9:12 with his fifth shorthanded goal of the season, tying him for first in that category with Chicago's Marian Hossa. He went in on a breakaway, deked Leclaire and put the puck into a wide-open net for his 31st of the season.

Samuelsson got his 30th of the season and ninth goal in six games at 11:30, and Daniel Sedin tucked in brother Henrik's goalmouth pass for a power-play goal at 16:07.

"He's scoring in bunches right now," Henrik Sedin said of Samuelsson. "We knew each other from before, and he's not a tough guy to play with."

Salo added an insurance goal midway through the third period.

"We were just excited to get back," Luongo said. "It's been such a long time that we haven't played here and guys were just excited to play in front of the home fans."

Material from wire services and team and national media was used in this report

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