VANCOUVER, B.C. – Alex Burrows has found a simple recipe for success since he began playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin three games ago.
Get them the puck. It doesn’t matter which identical twin, just get them the puck. Burrows did that twice for key goals Sunday night as both Sedins scored and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. It was Vancouver’s fifth win in six games and moved them into the playoff picture in the NHL’s wild Western Conference.
“They’re awesome players who are going to make plays all the time so for me I’ve got to keep getting them the puck,” Burrows said after Vancouver extended its unbeaten streak against the Canadiens to 11 games.
“If I can be the third man high and work it a little bit down low so I can keep some energy for the offence, that’s fine with me.”
Vancouver improved to 27-21-8 and leap-frogged to fifth place in the West. The Canucks were ninth before their fifth win in six games.
Vancouver is one point ahead of the idle Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks, who occupy the final three playoff spots.
The Canadiens, who completed the scoring with Andrei Kostitsyn’s 20th goal of the season, lost for the fifth time in six games to slip to 30-21-6.
“There’s not many games left,” said Montreal winger Alex Kovalev as other clubs creep closer to what used to be Montreal’s comfortable playoff position.
“We’re getting to the point where we just have to play loose and forget about our mistakes and everything else and just play like we can.”
Montreal has won only once in six games and lost eight of their last nine on the road. They remained fifth in the Eastern Conference but fell three points behind fourth-place Philadelphia.
Burrows set up Daniel Sedin’s 24th goal of the season midway through the first period and Alex Edler followed with a point blast 48 seconds later for a 2-0 lead.
Burrows also started the three-way passing play that led to Henrik Sedin’s 3-1 goal in the second period that proved to be the winner.
He took the puck down the side boards and looked off a defender before dishing to Daniel, who relayed to his twin.
At the time Montreal had some momentum from Saku Koivu’s goal late in the first period.
“The next goal was going to be huge and we were able to get it (when) their defencemen made a bad change,” said Burrows, who now has 27 points, four short of his career high.
“We got kind of an odd-man rush and we were able to make them pay. I wanted Danny to shoot it but I kind of put it behind him and he made a great heads-up play finding Hank there.”
The line had several other good scoring chances but was denied by goalie Jaroslav Halak who gave up four goals on 33 shots before giving way to B.C. native Carey Price midway through the third period.
“We didn’t put them in all the time but overall we played a real solid game,” said Henrik Sedin.
“We had a lot of fun out there. We moved the puck well and they gave us a lot of room. Alex is a real easy guy to play with. He moves the puck well.”
Ryan Kesler, who has found his scoring touch since forming a line with Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra, went to his knees to drill a shot under the crossbar for the third-period insurance goal, his fifth in six games.
A big key to the Canucks’ win was staying out of the penalty box for the first time this season, especially since they had surrendered at least one power-play goal in each of their last 10 games.
“That’s a great recipe,” said goalie Roberto Luongo who won his fifth straight start. “If we do that every game we’ll be just fine.”
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said his top players – Kovalev, Andrei Markov and Chris Higgins – are not performing with snipers Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay injured.
Kovalev had no shots on goal for the second straight game, Markov was a minus-3 and Higgins had one assist.
“Obviously there’s nowhere to hide if your best players are not your best players most of the nights,” Carbonneau said.
“We need everybody to push hard. We just can’t find that spark that gets us going. Every time we make a mistake – whether it’s a big mistake or a small mistake – the puck ends up in our net.”
NOTES: Before getting Friday off against Dallas, Luongo had nine straight starts since coming back from a serious groin injury … Montreal centre Tomas Plekanec served the second and final game of his suspension for tripping Edmonton defenceman Denis Grebeshkov from behind … it was the 5,999th game for the century-old Montreal franchise … Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges, a Kelowna, B.C., native, bought 32 tickets for friends and family … Ryan O’Byrne, of Victoria, was a healthy scratch for Montreal … the Canucks and Habs have a return match Feb. 24 in Montreal.