VANCOUVER – Free agent Manny Malhotra came to the Vancouver Canucks in the off-season as a third-line checking centre whose forte was winning faceoffs.
He added sniper and playmaker to those roles Saturday night as the Vancouver Canucks outlasted the Detroit Red Wings 6-4.
Malhotra scored short-handed and on the power play and set up linemate Jannik Hansen as the Canucks erased a 4-3 third-period deficit for their sixth consecutive NHL win.
“It was nice to contribute offensively but more importantly we got another win, we kept the streak alive and we did it playing the right way,”Malhotra said.
“If you look at this room, regardless of who you play with there’s an opportunity to have offensive chances.”
Malhotra gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead in the second period when he stole the puck from Pavel Datsyuk at the Canuck blue-line and beat goalie Jimmy Howard on a short-handed break-in.
Alex Edler and Malhotra scored power-play goals two minutes 44 seconds apart to snap a 4-4 tie as the Canucks finally pulled away from the Wings with a 23-shot barrage in the third period.
Edler beat Howard up high with a 30-foot wrist shot while Malhotra provided insurance by burying his own rebound after Mason Raymond faked Howard to the ice.
“Both Raffi (Torres) and Jannik have contributed by going to the net hard,”Malhotra said.
“We’ve done a good job of creating opportunities for ourselves. Getting the opportunity on the power play, you better make the most of your opportunity.”
Hansen backhanded in Malhotra’s rebound while Torres, who had five goals in three previous games, drew the second assist on the play.
The game saw four lead changes between two teams not noted for giving up many chances.
“We could have cracked a couple of times in the game but we stuck to our plan,”Malhotra said.
The Canucks managed only 11 shots in the first 40 minutes but outshot Detroit 34-28.
“(Back-and-forth offence) might be the plan for the fans but not for both teams,”said Detroit centre Pavel Datsyuk.
“We had some big mistakes. I have to analyze my game now.”
Daniel Sedin and Mikael Samuelsson were the other Canuck marksmen. Niklas Kronwall led the Wings with a pair of goals. Dan Cleary and Jonathan Ericsson also scored for Detroit.
The Canucks, leaders in the Northwest Division, extended their win streak to six games and improved to 8-3-2.
Detroit, which fell to second behind St. Louis in the Central Division after three straight wins, suffered only their second loss in eight games as they slipped to 8-3-1.
“Even though they played last night they just keep going,”said Canuck centre Ryan Kesler, a native of Livonia, Mich., a Detroit suburb.
“We were down a couple of times and we just kept battling back. That speaks to the character in this room. We kept throwing pucks at the net and got a couple of key goals.”
Three goals from the third line helps, too.
“We’re a whole team right now, going in the same direction,”Kesler said.
Vancouver’s scoring depth was not lost on Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart whose club played its third game in four nights.
“That’s what happens when you have to good teams with pretty good depth up front,”he said of the Vancouver comback.“When the top line is not scoring or shut down you need those guys to step up. They got that tonight.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Kronwall’s second goal, which he fired between defenceman Kevin Bieksa’s legs and past netminder Roberto Luongo, should have been the winner at 1:40 of the third period.
“You hate to see yourselves give up a goal on the next shift,”Babcock said of Hansen’s effort.
“I was pleased with 40 minutes. I thought we did a lot of good things but by the end we didn’t get it done.”
NOTES: Rick Rypien returned to the Vancouver lineup after sitting out a six-game suspension for grabbing a fan by his team sweater in Minnesota … he played 3:06 replacing fourth-liner Guillaume Desbiens who broke his hand in a fight with Cody McLeod in Denver … Detroit was the only Western Conference team to go undefeated here last season … Vancouver begins a five-game road trip Tuesday in Montreal.