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Kassian's 4 points help Canucks rally past Sabres

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Zack Kassian finished with 10 stiches and four assists, but the gash between the eyes of the Vancouver Canucks forward wasn't enough to wipe the smile off his face.

The grin was a little wider Sunday night because the big right wing's first four-point game in the NHL came against his former team, the Buffalo Sabres.

Kassian, who was traded from Buffalo to Vancouver in 2012, set up unanswered goals by Brad Richardson, Shawn Matthias, Yannick Weber and David Booth in the Canucks' 4-2 win at Rogers Arena.

"My face isn't getting any prettier, that's for sure," Kassian said after a puck to the face caused him to leave the ice with 1:32 left to play. "It was one of those games it seemed the puck followed me."

The Canucks fell behind 2-0 3:29 into the first period before Kassian started the comeback by cycling the puck below the goal line with new linemates Matthias and Richardson. He set up Richardson out of the corner for a quick shot over rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen's shoulder from below the left faceoff circle at 10:12, then made a similar pass to Matthias a bit higher in the zone 2:36 later.

"[Richardson's] goal was the exact same and that's a hard pass to make," said Matthias, who had two assists. "On back to back shifts that's pretty impressive. He had a heck of a night."

Kassian got his third assist when Lieuwen whiffed on Weber's long shot 1:40 into the second period, but was full value to set up Booth 2:23 into the third. Kassian skated the puck out of trouble in his own end, fought off a check in the neutral zone to create a 2-on-1, then passed across to Booth, who ended a 32-game goal drought.

"He was a monster out there," Matthias said.

Kassian, who was traded for Sabres center Cody Hodgson on Feb. 27, 2012, downplayed the significance of his outburst coming against his former team. Kassian said he was more worried about Vancouver winning consecutive games for the first time in more than two months to keep its slim Stanley Cup Playoff hopes alive.

With five wins in eight games, the Canucks are three points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the second Western Conference wild card. Vancouver has nine games remaining; the Coyotes have 11; and the Dallas Stars, who are one point ahead of the Canucks, have 12.

"It's nice personally, but it's even better we keep this streak going," Kassian said.

It may have been a costly victory, however.

Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, who was honored in a pregame ceremony for playing his 1,000th game March 12, left favoring his left leg late in the second period and did not return.

"I went to hit a guy and he came back off the boards and he fell on top of me, so we'll see how it is tomorrow," said Sedin, who was walking with a very slight limp after the game. "I'm not declaring anything. We'll see how it feels tomorrow and go from there."

Tyler Ennis and Jamie McBain scored early for Buffalo, but the last-place Sabres weren't able to build off a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, losing for the eighth time in nine games.

"We were two steps behind and they capitalized on them," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "In this League you can't play good sometimes. You've gotta play good all the time. That's a lesson to learn and something we have to do to move forward."

Lieuwen, making his second NHL start, this one in front of family and friends from his nearby hometown of Abbotsford, finished with 32 saves.

"For me, it's a dream come true to play here. I've got tons of family here and I was very nervous the first half of the game," Lieuwen said. "But I felt after that I settled in real nice and felt comfortable."

His only regret was Weber's goal from above the faceoff circle.

"I thought I had it and, obviously, there was a hole," Lieuwen said. "I don't know what to tell you. That's obviously one that I feel I can obviously save. What a terrible night for that to go in."

The Canucks welcomed back top-six forwards Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. But less than three-and-a-half minutes later, they trailed after two quick goals by the NHL's lowest scoring team.

Ennis scored at 1:11 after a turnover in the neutral zone allowed him to skate unchecked below the left faceoff dot before beating Lack off the goal post on the blocker side.

McBain scored during on a delayed penalty against Daniel Sedin at 3:29. McBain was alone to take a cross-ice pass from Brian Flynn on the rush, and his attempt to pass back hit the stick of Canucks defenseman Ryan Stanton and trickled past a stranded Lack, who came well out to challenge.

"I wasn't really tracking the puck well the first half of the game but I settled down and felt better after that," said Lack, who finished with 16 saves after being beaten by two of the first three shots.

The new line of Kassian, Richardson and Matthias, who started the game as the fourth-line center after being bumped by Kesler before being moved back up to play left wing, dominated the Sabres on the cycle down low.

"He was really, really excited playing against his old team, and you could just see it was burning in his eyes," Lack said of Kassian. "He was definitely ready to go."

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