The Vancouver Canucks, goaltender Roberto Luongo and the team’s sagging power play all needed redemption Thursday.
All three got just that.
The Canucks got back into the win column with a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena. Luongo silenced his critics – momentarily – by making 24 saves, and the power play struck twice in 10 attempts after being held scoreless in the previous game despite eight chances.
Daniel Sedin led all scorers with three points while Henrik Sedin and Alexander Edler added two points each. Ryan Kesler scored his first goal of the NHL season – in his second game after returning from August hip surgery – and eight Canucks hit the scoresheet in a game that was over after 20 minutes.
It could only happen in a Canadian market in the third week of the NHL season, but one Vancouver newspaper has already advocated trading Luongo to the Tampa Bay Lightning for centre Vincent Lecavalier. Both players have no-trade clauses as part of their decade-long deals.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has routinely said that he doesn’t believe in asking players to waive no-trade clauses because it amounts to trying to renegotiate terms. Luongo’s play has come under scrutiny again after he received a Bronx cheer Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers (although those same fans failed to boo Vancouver’s 0-for-8 power play). More sarcastic applause came again Thursday when Luongo corralled a long Nashville clearing attempt.
Another groan greeted a Luongo gaffe in the first period. He tried to clear the puck near his crease with a wave of his stick, but missed and allowed Matt Halischuk to shovel the rubber into an empty net.
Mikael and Marco
It hasn’t been a glorious start to the season for wingers Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. For Samuelsson, evidence emerged Thursday when the Canucks scratched him for the Predators game because of “stiffness” stemming from off-season sports hernia surgery. The team said it was a maintenance day and wasn’t serious.
That decision opened the door for Sturm, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday against the Rangers after five nondescript games to begin his Canucks career. Signed as a free agent last summer, Sturm finally showed that he can still play in the NHL. He generated a first-period chance by skating the puck through two zones, then drove to the net and the puck went in off his skate. The on-ice officials ruled that it was no goal because the puck was kicked in, and a video review did not overturn the call.
In the middle period, Sturm was stopped on an odd-man rush, and he drew a hooking penalty on Ryan Suter early in the third.
Normally a strength, the Predators’ structure and goaltending blew up in a four-goal first period that chased starting goaltender Pekka Rinne from the game. Daniel Sedin scored less than three minutes into the contest, banking a puck past Rinne from behind the net.
Henrik Sedin answered his brother’s goal on the power play with a shot that was tipped past Rinne by Preds defenceman Kevin Klein. Dale Weise scored his first NHL goal with a deflection at the 12-minute mark, while Chris Higgins completed the first-period assault with a rebound goal on a two-on-one.
Backup Anders Lindback fared better in the second frame, stopping all 15 Canuck shots, but was beaten by Kesler in the third period during a two-man disadvantage.