Canucks stage rally to crown Kings

New power-play com­bi­na­tions show spark as club fin­ishes road trip with 2-2 mark

The Province - - SPORTS - Ben Kuzma SPORTS COM­MENT bkuzma@post­ twit­

You’re of­ten sup­posed to be care­ful what you wish for.

Travis Green knew what awaited his club Tues­day and he sounded part hope­ful and part prophet.

“It’s a good chal­lenge, a big chal­lenge and I like it when you face some hard games,” the Van­cou­ver Canucks coach said just be­fore his club met the Los An­ge­les Kings. “You learn a lot about your team. And there might not be a big­ger chal­lenge in our di­vi­sion than com­ing into L.A.” Well, he nailed that one. The Canucks dug a two-goal hole be­fore four min­utes elapsed against the Na­tional Hockey League’s sec­ond-stingi­est team and top-ranked penalty kill. They were over­matched and even over­whelmed at the out­set and looked like they were go­ing to go qui­etly into the SoCal night. Then Derek Dorsett got mad. Then the Canucks got re­silient. Then they found new power play com­bi­na­tions that ac­tu­ally worked.

It turned the im­prob­a­ble into an im­pres­sive 3-2 vic­tory. And it capped a re­veal­ing four-game road trip in which the Canucks rode a roller-coaster of in­dif­fer­ent play yet fin­ished 2-2 be­cause they fi­nally found some power play mojo.

Here’s what we learned:

Boeser and the dot

Brock Boeser was feel­ing it. He not only got to the face­off dot on a new-look power play to let that heavy wrist shot go, it struck Jonathan Quick on the shoul­der and Bo Hor­vat was there to jam home the re­bound.

The goal was en­cour­ag­ing on sev­eral fronts.

For starters, there was move­ment. There was the sym­me­try of Hen­rik and Daniel Sedin and the smart cross-ice pass by the cap­tain to find Boeser in his favourite shoot­ing spot.

What took so long?

It was also Hen­rik’s first power play point of the sea­son and the cen­tre ac­tu­ally started the comeback. His shot off the wall went off the butt of Nick Short and found the short side.

And be­cause you can’t re­ally quib­ble with the Canucks’ play at even strength, the power play ad­just­ment ended an 0-for-11 funk af­ter be­ing blanked with the man ad­van­tage in San Jose and Ana­heim.

Green had three dif­fer­ent power play align­ments in prac­tice Mon­day and said he had op­tions. And his gut told him to find the right shooter and net-pres­ence guy to com­ple­ment the Sedins. It not only worked, it’s a bona fide first unit be­cause there’s a passer, shooter and fin­isher.

If that wasn’t enough man-ad­van­tage hope, the game win­ner started with a sweet cross-ice feed by Thomas Vanek to Sven Baertschi on the sec­ond power play unit. He got Quick mov­ing the wrong way and went far side.

Dorsett be­ing Dorsett

Green didn’t ex­pect Derek Dorsett to back down against the Kings, even though the pesky winger and lead­ing goal scorer is skat­ing on thin sus­pen­sion ice. He has two in­sti­ga­tor penal­ties and a third war­rants a two-game sus­pen­sion.

That didn’t stop Dorsett when he at­tempted to shift mo­men­tum af­ter the Kings needed just 23 sec­onds to open scor­ing on An­ders Nils­son, who got bet­ter as the game pro­gressed. He stopped Tan­ner Pear­son on a short-handed break with the game tied 2-2 early in the third pe­riod and then stopped Adrian Kempe with 3:48 left.

Dorsett took on Andy An­dre­off but made sure he didn’t start the bout or throw the first punch. Af­ter that, he landed sev­eral blows.

The Canucks at­tempted to get Dorsett’s in­sti­ga­tor penalty Thurs­day in Ana­heim against Josh Man­son re­scinded, but the league cited dis­tance trav­elled and fight ini­ti­a­tion in its rul­ing. So, what do you say to a guy who needs to play on the edge, but not go over it?

“There’s not much to say,” said Green. “He’s an ag­gres­sive player and sticks up for his team­mates. You never want to take that away from a player. I think both of his in­sti­ga­tor calls could have gone ei­ther way, to be hon­est.

"He’s not a guy who goes and in­sti­gates a lot of fights — he fights straight up his whole ca­reer.”

Gaunce ver­sus Vir­ta­nen

Green said his ra­tio­nale for play­ing Bren­dan Gaunce with Bran­don Sut­ter and Dorsett was based on mov­ing Markus Gran­lund to the mid­dle be­tween Vanek and Sam Gag­ner. Gaunce is a big body, but so is Jake Vir­ta­nen and there’s the de­bate.

Both have played 80 NHL games, but Vir­ta­nen is a bet­ter skater, has more scor­ing po­ten­tial and Tues­day was tai­lor-made to bring phys­i­cal­ity back to his game. He sat while Gaunce took a bad of­fen­sive-zone trip­ping penalty in the first pe­riod that led to an Anze Ko­pi­tar goal.

You could ar­gue giv­ing Vir­ta­nen more min­utes on a shut­down line might be too big an ask, but why not find out? Then again, it was Gaunce’s back­hand saucer pass that sprung Sut­ter and re­sulted in his failed penalty shot.

OVER­TIME: Green said he ex­pects to have Chris Tanev (thumb) back in 1½ weeks. That might make the de­fence­man el­i­gi­ble to re­turn at some point in the team’s six-game road trip that opens next Tues­day in Philadel­phia.


Hen­rik Sedin, right, of the Van­cou­ver Canucks cel­e­brates his sec­ond-pe­riod goal with the bench dur­ing the Canucks’ 3-2 win over the Los An­ge­les Kings at the Sta­ples Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les on Tues­day night.

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