THE COACH HAS HIS EAR

Vir­ta­nen ap­pre­ci­ates Green’s hon­esty

Vancouver Sun - - FP VANCOUVER - BEN KUZMA bkuzma@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ benkuzma

CANUCKS 3, KINGS 2

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 head coach said 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 pow­er­play 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 goalie 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.

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

Be­cause you can’t re­ally quib­ble with the Canucks’ play at even strength, the power play ad­just­ment ended a zero-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. 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 ban.

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. Dorsett took on Andy An­dre­off but made sure he didn’t start the bout or throw the first punch.

The Canucks at­tempted to get Dorsett’s in­sti­ga­tor penalty against Josh Man­son from Thurs­day’s game in Ana­heim 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,” Green said. “He’s an ag­gres­sive player and sticks up for his team­mates. You never want to take that away from a player.”

GAUNCE VER­SUS VIR­TA­NEN

Green said his ra­tio­nale for play­ing Bren­dan Gaunce with Bran­don Sut­ter and Dorsett was based on mov­ing Markus Gran­lund 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. 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.

CHRIS CARL­SON/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Los An­ge­les Kings goal­tender Jonathan Quick makes a save as Van­cou­ver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin looks on dur­ing the first pe­riod on Tues­day in Los An­ge­les.

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