ANAHEIM, Calif. – Michael Grabner celebrated the end of his long scoring drought with a smile.
The 22-year-old rookie forward scored three goals for Vancouver in a 5-4 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday that secured a playoff berth for the Canucks. The six-foot, 170-pound Austrian hadn’t scored since Oct. 25 against Edmonton.
“After the first one, I relaxed,” said Grabner, who scored Vancouver’s first three goals. “I had plenty of chances.
“It shows the work I’m doing with our skills coach is paying off. I’d missed a lot of nets until tonight.”
The Canucks came out on top in a matchup of backup goalies playing for teams trying to secure post-season spots. Vancouver, the Northwest Division leader, earned its berth once the game was extended to overtime.
Grabner expected the news of his big night to spread back home to Austria.
“For sure,” he said. “They keep up with me. And this is a big deal.”
Grabner had never scored more than one goal in a game and had only two this season.
“The kid’s got a lot of skills,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He was able to put it together here. Sometimes those things just happen. He stayed after it in some tough situations out there and made it happen.”
Vancouver’s Andrew Raycroft started in place of Roberto Luongo, who gave up eight goals in an 8-3 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday, and made 30 saves.
Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu both scored two goals each for the Ducks, who were beaten 3-1 in the shootout and are long shots to qualify for the playoffs. Selanne moved into 17th place on the NHL career goal list with 603, ahead of friend and fellow Finnish star Jari Kurri, who along with Jaromir Jagr, are the only European-born players with at least 600 NHL goals.
“I’d rather not pass him and get these points to give us a chance (at the playoffs),” Selanne said. “It’s tough to lose the one point tonight.”
Anaheim is 11th in the West, six points below the playoff cutoff with five games to play. Curtis McElhinney got the start in goal and made 36 saves for the Ducks with Jonas Hiller out due to back spasms.
The Canucks appeared to be on their way to a regulation win after Jannik Hansen’s goal made it 4-3 with 6:27 remaining, but Koivu’s second of the night tied it with 1:24 left.
Selanne and Bobby Ryan were stopped by Raycroft in the shootout. Pavol Demitra scored what proved to be the winning goal before Ryan’s attempt.
“We needed the two points, there is no doubt,” Koivu said. “At this point, we have to forget this game as quick as possible.”
Neither team got much going in the first period. McElhinney stopped 17 shots in the frame, and Raycroft made 12 saves at the other end.
The offence picked up in the second. Koivu gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 3:01. He circled back after taking a pass from Jason Blake behind the Canucks net and lifted a shot over Raycroft’s right shoulder.
Grabner tied it 7:06 later. The unlikely scorer received a pass from Ryan Kesler just past his blue-line and got by the last Ducks defender before beating McElhinney.
Selanne put the Ducks back in front when he put in a rebound from in close with 5:9 left in the second.
Grabner scored at 1:22 and 3:55 of the third to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead, but Selanne’s 24th of the second lifted Anaheim back into a tie.
NOTES: The Ducks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and 21-12-2 in the past 35. … Grabner hadn’t scored a goal since Oct. 25 against Edmonton.