VANCOUVER – When things aren’t going well, sometimes it pays to just relax.
That’s what the Vancouver Canucks did Thursday night as they put a four-game losing streak behind them and pumped in four first-period goals in a 6-2 dismantling of the Nashville Predators.
“You come to a point after playing bad for a few games, you have to realize you have to have fun out there,” said Daniel Sedin who helped set up three goals, including Alex Edler’s power-play marker with a two-man advantage.
“You can’t play so uptight and squeeze the stick too much. Tonight we went out and relaxed and got our legs going.”
Vancouver needed to get something going after the four-game skid saw them score only six goals and slip to ninth in the NHL’s Western Conference.
The victory moved them into a playoff position, an eighth-place tie with Nashville with a game in hand.
“It was good for the team, we scored a lot of goals and we’re right back in it,” Daniel Sedin said after a season-high 24-shot barrage on two Predator netminders in the first period produced a 4-2 lead.
The assists were the first points in seven games for the Canucks’ leading goal-scorer.
“They came out with way more intensity than we did,” said Dan Ellis, who was chased from the Nashville net after Matt Pettinger counted his first goal as a Canuck to end a personal 32-game scoring drought. “Both teams realized it was a game that had a lot of importance and they just way, way outmatched us. They dominated us like we’ve never been dominated in that first period.”
Kevin Bieksa, who completed the first-period scoring after Alex Burrows started it at 37 seconds with his third short-handed goal of the season, said the Canucks turned the tables on Nashville.
“We’re well aware that they come out hard and we’re trying to build a reputation that we’re a team that comes out hard as well,” said Bieksa, who scored for the first time since coming back from a lacerated calf injury that cost him 46 games.
The injury came when he tangled in the corner with the Predators’ Vernon Fiddler here on Nov. 1.
“We definitely exceeded their intensity in the first (period),” Bieksa added.
Mason Raymond and Ryan Shannon completed the Vancouver attack.
Fiddler and de Vries cut the Predators’ deficit to 3-2 early in an opening period that saw five goals scored in the first six minutes 21 seconds.
Burrows’ goal gave the Canucks a big lift with Henrik Sedin sitting out a holding penalty, and he now has 10 goals this season, doubling his career total.
“I think it’s finally turned the tide and I’m getting more bounces going my way,” said Burrows who had four goals disallowed last season. “I just have to be positive and keep working and doing the little details right. If I do all that, the hockey gods are going to be on my side.” They weren’t on the side of the Predators who paid for a poor start.
“That’s not the way we play, especially against these guys,” de Vries said after Nashville fell to 34-26-8 with their second loss in four starts on a six-game road trip.
“We know they were struggling to score goals so if we come out with a good defensive effort in the first period it’s going to be to our advantage. We just didn’t do that.” Jason Arnott said his club lacked intensity in a game that could ultimately decide a playoff berth.
“Games like this we can’t afford to take off and have no passengers at all. It’s crunch time.” The game turned nasty in the final two minutes when Jordin Tootoo delivered a heavy hit along the boards on Vancouver defenceman Aaron Miller who left the game holding his right shoulder.
“Hitting’s part of the game,” said Tootoo, who received a cross-checking penalty and a boarding major.
“You’ve got to be a man to play this game and you’ve got to be able to keep your head up. Clean hit. Nothing more to say.” Fiddler later fired a puck at Bieksa who fired one back and ended up fighting de Vries in the final minute.
NOTES: Vancouver defenceman Mattias Ohlund is sidelined with bone chips in his left knee … the club is waiting to see if the swelling will go down before deciding on further treatment … the four-goal first period matched a Canuck season high … the two clubs combined for 110 minutes in penalties … Byron Ritchie returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing four games with a sore back … Raymond, had a goal, an assist and the shootout winner against Nashville on Feb. 21.