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Torres' first hat trick lifts Canucks to first road win

by Robin Brownlee

EDMONTON -- Raffi Torres never had a three-goal game as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, but he notched the first hat trick of his NHL career against them on Tuesday, leading the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-3 win at Rexall Place.

With the Canucks looking for their first win in five road games this season, the former Oiler picked a fine time to turn his first trick -- and in his former stomping grounds, no less -- sending the Edmonton to its third straight loss at home.

"I had a lot of good times here," said Torres, whose goal midway through the third period snapped a 3-3 tie and spoiled Edmonton's comeback from a three-goal deficit. "This franchise was nothing but good to me. If you don't produce, the have to make changes. It's a nice feeling, obviously, but the win is more important right now."

Torres, 29, who played parts of four seasons with Edmonton, then was traded to Columbus for Gilbert Brule and later dealt to Buffalo by the Blue Jackets, signed a one-year contract for $1 million with the Canucks as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

"That's my problem," smiled Torres, asked about his tendency to be streaky and tease fans with the kind of performance he put in against the Oilers, only to disappear for long stretches.

"I keep thinking it's just going to happen out there. I tend to forget that you have to go out there and make it happen."

With 6 goals in 11 games, the former first-round draft choice of the New York Islanders is looking like a bargain early. The stocky left wing is off to the fastest start of his career, a tenure that's included a 27-goal campaign, with Edmonton in 2005-06. His third goal in this one even prompted a handful of fans to throw hats on the ice to mark the event.

"He's been a real solid player for us," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said of Torres. "He came to camp with a great attitude and real good conditioning. Since day one, he's doing the right things on the ice. He's doing the right things off the ice. He's played real well for us."

The Canucks jumped out to 3-0 lead on the first nine shots they directed at Nikolai Khabibulin.

Daniel Sedin, who came in with 26 goals in 54 career games against Edmonton, made it 27 goals in 55 games when he deflected a slap-pass from brother Henrik Sedin behind Khabibulin from 30 feet out on a power play at 11:01.

Torres got his first of the night just 32 seconds later to make it 2-0 when he pounced on the rebound of Manny Malhotra's point shot off the end boards and chipped it up and over Khabibulin.

"It's immature hockey," Oilers coach Tom Renney said of the first-period lapse.

"I don't know what you hang that on. I mean, we have experienced guys in our line-up, too, who should help us do the right thing. It's not easy to fall behind 3-0 to anybody, never mind Vancouver."

When Torres scored his second, deflecting Kevin Bieksa's power-play shot past Khabibulin at 15:13 with a man-advantage, Vancouver's fifth-ranked power play had two goals on two attempts and the Oilers looked to be in a world of trouble. Not so.

"We're finding ways to win," said Roberto Luongo, who followed up his 30-save shutout of New Jersey on Monday with 23 saves against the Oilers. "That's what it's all about at the end of the day. Whether we're at home or on the road, we have to play the same style of hockey and get the job done."

After directing just five shots at Luongo in the first period, the Oilers cranked it up in the second and had the Canucks on their heels. All the Oilers got for 12 shots, though, was Dustin Penner's fourth goal of a season to cut Vancouver's lead to 3-1. Penner took a puck jarred loose on a check by Andrew Cogliano behind Vancouver's net, stepped out in front and slipped a shot past Luongo at 9:16 to snap a five-game goal-less drought.

The Oilers kept coming, and Vancouver's two-goal margin didn't last six minutes in the third period.

Ryan Jones banged his own rebound past Luongo from in tight to cut it to 3-2 at 3:48, and Brule tied it less than two minutes later when he one-timed a Cogliano pass high past Luongo from the slot.

But Torres put the Canucks back in front at 10:53 when he backhanded an innocent-looking shot toward the net from the high slot, then watched the puck deflect off Jason Strudwick's skate and into the net at 10:53.

"I don't think he prepared differently, even though it's the Oilers," Vigneault said.

"Raffi, since he's been with us, has been real professional and prepared hard to play every game. I don't think tonight was anything different."

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