The Canucks scored four times in the first period and whipped the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2 Tuesday night to match a season high in goals and give Ed Jovanovski a rude welcome back. The Canucks have scored 12 goals in their last three NHL games. That follows a streak where Vancouver managed just five goals in six games.
“We’re seeing guys reacting out there instead of thinking,” said centre Brendan Morrison, who scored once and had one of his better games of the season. “When you start thinking you’re in trouble.
“A big part of this game is mental, believing you can do it. Sometimes I think we get caught up in other people telling us what we can’t do and we start believing it. It ultimately comes down to believing in yourself.”
It wasn’t the game Jovanovski had in mind for his first match back in Vancouver. The former Canuck defenceman fled the West Coast for the desert after signing a US$32.5-million, five-year contract with Phoenix in July.
“We eliminate that first period it’s a 2-1 game in our favour,” said a subdued Jovanovski, who picked up his 11th assist of the season. “For whatever reason we’re giving the puck away.”
Jovanovski received a mixed welcome from the fans. There was polite applause and a smattering of boos.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “I felt good and kept it pretty simple, tried to make plays when they were there but it was nice to get this one out of the way.”
Also scoring for the Canucks was defenceman Kevin Bieska, who had a goal and an assist, Jan Bulis, Ryan Kesler and Mattias Ohlund, on a power play. Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin had a pair of assists as the Canucks clawed back to .500 with a 15-15-1 record.
Bulis’s goal was his third in three games after not scoring for 13. He also hit the post late in the third period.
Ohlund’s power-play goal was Vancouver’s seventh in three games.
“For a while we were gripping our sticks pretty tight because we knew we weren’t scoring goals,” said Bieska, who has six goals after failing to score in 39 games with the Canucks last season.
“Guys weren’t playing the way they should have been. Once you are relaxed and not thinking as much, you start to make better plays out there.”
The Canucks’ previous high for goals this season was when they blanked Chicago 5-0 back on Oct. 25.
Oleg Saprykin and Dave Scatchard scored for Phoenix, who lost their second consecutive game and dropped to 11-18-1 on the season.
It’s been a rough road trip for the Coyotes, who lost 4-0 in San Jose Monday. Saprykin’s goal broke a scoring drought of 93 minutes, 10 seconds, stretching back to the 7:46 mark of the third period in a 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas Saturday night.
“It’s a tough situation,” said head coach Wayne Gretzky. “We’re not scoring enough goals. I don’t have the answer right now.”
Staring goalie Mikael Tellqvist was chased to the bench after the Canucks scored four unanswered goals in the first period. Curtis Joseph played the second period, giving up on goal, then Tellqvist returned for the third.
Roberto Luongo went the distance for Vancouver, stopping 28 shots to improve his record to 15-13-1.
The big win boosted the Canucks confidence, but Morrison warned Vancouver faces another tough contest Thursday when the Calgary Flames come to town.
“I wouldn’t say we are completely out of the woods yet,” he said. “Even though it’s only one game you can build off it. When guys get scoring its contagious. More than anything it gives you energy.
“When you’re not scoring it’s draining mentally and physically. You lose a step sometimes, When you do score it’s exciting. That leads to more energy.”
Notes: American League MVP Justin Morneau of suburban New Westminster received a standing ovation when he dropped the puck at the pre-game ceremonial face-off … Injured defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick (heel) and forward Josh Green (broken toe) are expected to return to the Canucks lineup later this week. …Vancouver hasn’t won consecutive games since a three-game win streak from Nov. 17 to Nov. 22.