VANCOUVER, B.C. – Alex Burrows made his signature move, and just like that, the Vancouver Canucks buried a bitter nine-game home losing streak Tuesday night.
Burrows scored a short-handed breakaway goal with only 1:22 left in third period as the Canucks eked out a hard-fought 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes before a relieved crowd of 18,630 at General Motors Place.
“The last few weeks, we found a way to lose and shoot ourselves in the foot, but tonight even though we got a penalty with less than three minutes to go, we found a way to get it done,” said Burrows.
He beat Carolina goaltender Cam Ward with what he has previously described as his “only” move faking a forehand and roofing a backhand. It was a move that Burrows has made many times before, but Ward went the wrong way and could not recover quickly enough.
“I like coming down that side when I go to my go-to move,” said Burrows, a left-handed shot who raced down left wing. “I think everybody in the building knew I was going to do that, but obviously Cam Ward watches Eastern Time games and he doesn’t stay up late at night to watch our games.”
The Hurricanes have not won in Vancouver since Oct. 15, 1999, when coach Paul Maurice was in his first stint with the Hurricanes before being fired and joining the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Ward was one of the NHL’s hottest netminders, with two shutouts in his past five games.
“I thought for the most part our team played pretty well,” said Ward. “I didn’t help them by any means. It was a game where I was fighting the puck it seemed like all night.”
Overall, the Canucks (23-20-8) won for the first time in eight games, since highly-touted free agent signing Mats Sundin’s debut in Edmonton on Jan. 7. They hadn’t won at home since a 3-0 win over Ottawa on Dec. 28.
But more importantly, Vancouver vaulted into seventh place in the Western Conference, moving ahead of Edmonton, Columbus and Phoenix as all of those clubs suffered losses Tuesday.
Much-maligned Canucks coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to unite Ryan Kesler with Sundin and Pavol Demitra paid off as the trio combined for three goals, and Kesler assisted on Burrows’ winner at 18:38 of the third period.
Kesler scored a goal and added two assists, Sundin provided a goal and a helper, and Demitra added two assists upon his return to the Vancouver lineup after missing four games with a groin injury. Kevin Bieksa also scored for the Canucks.
“I thought Mats was better tonight,” said Vigneault. “He was stopping more on pucks, and battling more. That line, I thought, had some good moments. They were responsible defensively. Hopefully we’ve got something there we can work with and improve on a daily basis.”
Joe Corvo, Joni Pitkanen and Eric Staal replied for the Hurricanes (25-22-5), who lost for only the second time in six games.
Burrows and Kesler, regular linemates in recent seasons, were split up for the first time in a long while, but reunited for the decisive goal.
“We knew we had to be good on that final penalty kill,” said Kesler. “We didn’t want to give up another one. It was just kind of a lucky bounce, the defenceman stepped up and Burrows was behind.”
Kesler said his Burrows benefited from the fact that Canucks and Canes do not face each other often because of the NHL’s unbalanced schedule. The Hurricanes made their first visit to Vancouver since a 4-3 loss on Dec. 8, 2006.
“That’s the thing when you don’t see a team for a year,” said Kesler. “You really don’t know guys on the team especially for a goaltender. They don’t know when you’re going to shoot or anything.”
The Hurricanes negated a hot start for the Canucks, capitalizing 25 seconds apart midway through the second to forge a 2-2 tie. Corvo fired in a pass from Staal during a power play at 11:14, and then Pitkanen put home a pass from Ray Whitney at 11:39.
Sundin restored Vancouver’s lead at 15:10 of the middle frame as he retrieved his own rebound at one side of the net and beat Ward with a wraparound. Despite having to kill a slashing penalty to Mattias Ohlund, the Canucks conquered their habit of allowing late second-period lead and maintained the 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
However, Ohlund’s penalty extended into the third period and Staal created a 3-3 tie at the 33-second mark.
Ohlund was in the penalty box again late in the third period – for hooking this time – but Burrows scored the winner instead.
“It was a huge goal for us,” said a relieved Ohlund.
“It seems like when things are not going great it takes a goal like that to get out of a funk,” added Sundin. “So, hopefully, we can build on that.”
But Kesler, who has three goals in his last two games, tried not to get too excited about the win.
“We’ve only won one game – that’s nothing in this league,” said Kesler. “We’ve gotta string a couple wins together.”
NOTES-Canucks defenceman Shane O’Brien apologized earlier Tuesday for saying general manager Mike Gillis told him to fight more often, contending his comments were misinterpreted. O’Brien, who had also suggested it might be time to trade him, sat out his second straight game as a healthy scratch. So did winger Mason Raymond . . . Defencemen Dennis Seidenberg and Niclas Wallin (upper body) and winger Scott Walker (lower body) remained out of the Carolina lineup because of injuries . . . The Hurricanes made their first visit to Vancouver since a 4-3 loss on Dec. 8, 2006″.