VANCOUVER – Zac Dalpe did a double take when his coach told him to jump over the boards with the Sedin twins.
It was a move that helped propel the Vancouver Canucks to their first win of 2014.
Dalpe scored after being promoted to the first line and Mike Santorelli added the winner following his demotion to the fourth unit Friday as the Canucks halted a five-game losing streak with a gutsy 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
With his team playing a tentative first period, Canucks head coach John Tortorella moved Dalpe up with Henrik and Daniel Sedin and left him there for the rest of the game.
“I didn’t think he was serious to start,” said Dalpe, who usually plays on the fourth line.
So what was going through his head once he hit the ice with the two Swedish superstars?
“Don’t screw up and rise to the occasion a little bit and see where it takes you,” added Dalpe.
The line juggling only tells part of the story, though, as a Canucks’ team that has surrendered a boat load of late goals this season—including two against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss—hung on for dear life in the final minute.
“It was pretty much like a dogfight at the end,” said Santorelli. “We were happy that we finally closed one out and now we just need to build off that.”
The Canucks have been scored on six times with opponents’ goalies pulled for an extra attacker this season, but Eddie Lack and some desperate defending shut the door this time for Vancouver (24-13-9).
“I think my heart was pounding a little bit and it feels like we’ve been talking about this 6-on-5 for a while now,” said Lack, who finished with 30 saves. “I think everyone focused a little bit extra and it felt good closing it out.”
Alex Pietrangelo had the only goal for St. Louis (31-8-5), which saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end.
Brian Elliott made 20 saves in taking the loss as the Blues failed to pick up at least a point on the road for the first time in nine games.
“They’re a good team, we knew they were kind of struggling,” said Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. “I don’t really care how things have been going for them, but you know coming in here they are a good team. We just didn’t create enough.”
Santorelli snapped a 1-1 tie at 5:56 of the third after linemate Dale Weise—a healthy scratch last game—drove hard to the net. The puck popped out to Canucks defenceman Jason Garrison in the high slot and his shot through traffic was deflected in by Santorelli for his 10th goal of the season.
“I wasn’t good enough early on,” said Santorelli. “Too many turnovers, so (the demotion to the fourth line) was deserving.”
Lack then made a huge pad stop on Blues captain David Backes midway through the third to keep Vancouver ahead. The Swedish netminder has started eight of the last nine games in place of injured Vancouver No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo.
A late power play helped kill valuable time before the Blues made their late push as the Canucks snapped an 0-2-3 run after going 10-1-2 in December.
“It stops the bleeding for a day or two,” said Tortorella. “I thought after a really tentative first period we started playing better. You can see we’re fighting some confidence (issues).
“Hopefully this will help us a little bit as we try and get some traction.”
The Canucks currently hold down the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference, while the Blues still sit second in the conference and first in the Central Division.
After St. Louis carried most of the play in the first period, the Canucks scored just 91 seconds into the second when Dalpe tipped home his second of the season.
Daniel Sedin swung a pass from behind the net to Henrik Sedin, who fired a low shot from the sideboards that was going wide before Dalpe deflected it past a surprised Elliot.
“There’s something to be said for the adversity they have been facing,” said Backes. “We knew we were going to get a team that was concentrating and on their game plan and doing all the little things.”
But it wasn’t all good news for the newly formed trio as Dalpe and the Sedins were caught on an icing call later in the period, leading to the Blues’ tying goal. On the ensuing faceoff, St. Louis controlled the puck and Bouwmeester fed Pietrangelo, his defence partner and fellow Canadian Olympian, who wired a shot top corner past Lack for his seventh of the campaign.
The Blues were playing their second game in as many night after thumping the Flames 5-0 in Calgary on Thursday but had far more energy in the first period.
In a sign of things to come, Stewart had two shots off the rush three minutes in that Lack handled as the Blues jumped out of the gate quickly, outshooting the Canucks 8-1 in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis got his team’s second shot of the period with eight minutes to go as Elliott—back between the pipes after Jaroslav Halak’s shutout on Thursday—was rarely threatened.
Blues forward Jaden Schwartz had the two best chances of the first, but Lack was there to shut the door as St. Louis held a 12-5 shot advantage heading to the locker-rooms.
“No, it’s not textbook, but I thought we tried to stay aggressive—we find a way to win,” said Tortorella. “That’s a good team we played against and we find a way to win.
“I’m not picking it apart. It’s a good win for us. So now we’ll keep on going.”
Notes: The Canucks defeated the Blues 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 25 in St. Louis. Ryan Kesler had two goals in that one, including the winner. The teams play their final regular-season meeting Feb. 26 back at Rogers Arena. … The Canucks open a three-game road trip on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. Vancouver visits the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday before facing the Phoenix Coyotes the following night. … The Blues open a three-game homestand against the Coyotes on Tuesday. … Tortorella coached the 900th game of his career. … Bouwmeester, the current NHL iron man, played his 680th straight game. Henrik Sedin is right behind after playing in his 675th straight game. Both Bouwmeester and Sedin have a long way to go to catch all-time iron man Doug Jarvis, who holds the NHL record with 964 straight games played.