VANCOUVER – Andrew Ebbett is tired of being yo-yo'd, sick of bouncing in and out of the Vancouver Canucks' lineup and up and down from their American Hockey League affiliate. This time, the 30-year-old center made sure he came back from the Chicago Wolves with his confidence and scoring touch intact.
He showed off both on Thursday night.
Playing his second game since being called back up after a strong month in the AHL, Ebbett scored just 1:25 after the opening faceoff and set up goals by Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen to help the Canucks to a wild 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators.
"You can either get mad or frustrated down there or you can take as a positive and work on your game," said Ebbett, who has bounced up and down throughout his career, "And I got some confidence playing with some good guys down there, and getting some points, and hopefully carrying that over up here."
Ebbett, who had four goals and 11 points in eight games during a month in the AHL, opened the scoring early by banging his own rebound from the top of the crease after Hansen stole the puck behind the net. It was Ebbett's first point in seven games with Vancouver this season, and he added two more primary assists as the Canucks eclipsed their total offensive output from their previous four games combined.
"It's a good confidence-builder for me," said Ebbett, who spent all of last season in Vancouver but played only 18 games due to injuries and being scratched. "I'm kind of sick of going up and down, and up and down. I've been playing some good hockey down in Chicago and really just trying to take a few more chances up here."
After playing more games in the AHL (210) than the NHL (169) over a seven-year career that has already included stints with five NHL teams, Ebbett should get a good chance now. With Ryan Kesler out with a fractured foot and only two other NHL centers on the roster, Ebbett is playing on a speedy second line for a Canucks team that could use more offense up the middle.
"I have been playing kind of safe," Ebbett said. "I still want to be good on the defensive side, but I want to take more chances on the offensive side if I can."
There was plenty of that between the Canucks and Predators on Thursday, a surprise for two normally stingy teams struggling to score.
Mike Fisher scored 6:38 into the third period and Gabriel Bourque made it a one-goal game with 4:19 left. But Henrik Sedin ended any suspense by converting a penalty shot with 2:34 left, and David Booth scored his first of the season into an empty net 57 seconds later.
"It's definitely not the type of game we were expecting against these guys," said Hansen, who added two assists for his first career three-point game.
Alexander Edler and Maxim Lapierre also scored for Vancouver, and Roberto Luongo made 29 saves as the Canucks won consecutive games for the first time in almost three weeks.
"I'm happy we got the win, especially getting some goals and playing with a little bit of a cushion, but I thought I could have been a bit better tonight," Luongo said despite Fisher and Bourque both being left alone in front. "Technically I committed early and got beat."
Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling also scored for Nashville, which lost in regulation for the first time in four games (2-1-1). The Predators were missing key forward Patric Hornqvist and leading scorer Colin Wilson to injury.
"Nice little comeback at the end," coach Barry Trotz said. "I didn't think the score was an indication of how the game was, unfortunately everything that, I think happened early was self-inflicted. We battled back, we had some chances, but we couldn't bury enough."
It didn't help that Pekka Rinne, who hadn't given up an even-strength goal in three games coming in, didn't make it out of the second period.
Ebbett ended the streak, and Lapierre ended Rinne's night 5:32 into the period, skating out of the penalty box and skating in on a breakaway before snapping a shot between his legs to make it 4-1 on just 12 shots. It was the third straight time Rinne has been pulled in Vancouver.
"I think it's the way the games have gone more than anything," Trotz said. "Tonight there were some strange things that we did and ended up behind [him]. I pulled him out after the fourth because he will go back and play against Calgary [on Friday night]."
After a back-and-forth night that saw Nashville answer two Canucks goals quickly and come back late, Trotz was upset with a couple of calls that ended up being important late. The first was on Hansen's goal, which made it 5-2 with 6:12 left in the second period.
Chris Mason stopped Hansen after he got behind the defense, but the puck was knocked under the sprawled goalie when defenseman Ryan Ellis slid into him. Replays never conclusively showed the puck over the line under Mason, so the call on the ice stood up as a goal.
"I couldn't see any evidence of the puck going in," Trotz said. "The only person in the rink that saw it go in was the referee."
The Predators coach also called the penalty shot call "light."
The only thing more surprising than the call was seeing Sedin, who has taken only three shootout attempts in his career, convert the penalty shot with a move that faked Mason out of the crease.
"Honestly I didn't think he was going to score," said a smiling Luongo. "I have never seen him score in practice so I was nice to see."
The same could be said for a lot of Canucks lately.