Alain Vigneault says each time he thinks his Vancouver Canucks have turned the corner, the team takes a step back and "pisses" him off.
So the Canucks head coach won't yet be celebrating after an easy 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday, not unless it is followed with several more wins during this season-long eight-game home stand at GM Place.
"I was looking for a good game tonight," Vigneault said when queried about an on-ice captains' meeting he called after Thursday's morning skate. "And that's what we got."
Vancouver's first line exploded with Daniel Sedin netting a hat trick, and linemates Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows adding two assists apiece. It was the third hat trick of Daniel Sedin's career, and the first by a Canuck on home ice since 2006.
"When they were on the ice, they were really, really dominant all the way through," Vigneault said of the line.
The Sedin twins have registered points in five consecutive games, and Henrik has at least two points in every one of those contests. He has 38 points on the season, good for third in the NHL.
"I don't know if it was ideal, but we scored on a few chances," Daniel Sedin said. "It was a good start for us on this home stand."
But the better news for the Canucks is that defenceman Alexander Edler won't be lost for a lengthy period. That was in some doubt after Tuesday, when Edler suffered a left shoulder injury after being checked into the Sommet Center boards by Nashville's Shea Weber.
Edler suffered a partial shoulder separation, but is only expected to miss one week. He could return around the same time as rookie winger Michael Grabner (broken ankle), who is targeting a comeback over the next fortnight.
On Thursday, neither was needed.
The Canucks snapped a two-game skid by scoring the first goal early in the opening frame and opening a three-goal lead in the middle stanza. Roberto Luongo made 22 saves, beaten only by Nik Antropov on a first-period power play, and by Colby Armstrong on a second-period rebound. Mason Raymond also scored for the home team, who put 39 shots on goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
The results moved Vancouver into a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind the Dallas Stars for the final playoff position. The standings weighed heavily on Vigneault following a 4-2 loss to the Predators on Tuesday, when he fumed that his players needed to start paying closer attention to the table, lest they not feel the urgency at hand.
The Canucks have been over .500 since Nov. 14, but they have been dreadful on the road and while shorthanded, and they haven't won more than three consecutive games at any point this season.
The up-and-down campaign prompted Vigneault to make changes, and Thursday he chose to sit a healthy Kyle Wellwood - the former Maple Leaf's first benching of the season - in favour of enforcer Darcy Hordichuk.
The Canucks play 16 of their next 22 games at home, and need to gain ground before an epic road trip through February and March, when the 2010 Olympics take over GM Place.
The Thrashers, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five games and fell to 9-5-1 on the road. Atlanta has been held to two goals or less in five consecutive games, although rookie Evander Kane could have changed that.
Kane, who was groomed by the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, was playing his first NHL game in his native city and had two terrific opportunities.
He nearly beat Luongo on a tricky rush up the right wing, lodging the puck in the goaltender's equipment. The play was reviewed by video officials, who deemed the whistle had blown before Luongo fell into the net. Kane also missed a tap-in rebound in the third period.
"I was shaking my head after that. It was laying right there and I felt a bit of a hook but no excuse I should have put that away," Kane said. "I was looking forward to this, right from the start of the season I marked it down on my calendar that I was coming back to Vancouver. With the schedule these days it doesn't happen too often going out west. So it was a great experience and something I will never forget."
Atlanta and Vancouver ranked first and second, respectively, in the NHL in third-period goals, but neither team added to their totals. Instead, the fireworks were left to Canucks middleweight Rick Rypien, who continues to punch above his weight class.
Rypien, who is listed at 5 foot 11 and 170 pounds, dropped Thrashers defenceman Boris Valabik with a late flurry at the end of a long fight. Valabik is listed at 6 foot 7 and 245 pounds.Report Typo/Error