VANCOUVER – Two unlikely heroes helped the Vancouver Canucks emerge from their scoring funk Thursday night.
Andrew Ebbett and Jannik Hansen both scored a goal and added two assists as the Canucks dumped the Nashville Predators 7-4.
The Canucks (13-7-6) posted their second-straight win, while the normally tight-checking Predators (11-10-6) had a rare off night defensively. Heading into the game, the Canucks had only scored five goals in their previous three outings.
Ebbett’s goal, which came just 1:25 into the game, was his first of the season, which he has split between the NHL and Chicago of the AHL at various times.
“It’s a good confidence-builder for me,” said Ebbett. “I was getting sick of going up and down and up and down.”
Ebbett was ticketed as Vancouver’s second-line centre at the start of the season because of Ryan Kesler’s shoulder and wrist injuries. The Calgary native was recalled Monday after Kesler went down with a foot injury upon his return following off-season surgery, and rookie Jordan Schroeder struggled.
“It’s definitely not the type of game we were expecting against these guys,” said Hansen.
Hansen’s three-point night was the first of his NHL career, which began with 10 playoff games in 2006-07. He has been on an offensive tear since his wife gave birth to twin boys and now has four goals and five assists in the past seven games.
“It just happens to be going in the right direction right now,” said Hansen of his game. “Pucks are going in … A couple of greasy goals are obviously nice to get. For some reason tonight, we (the team) found a way to score a couple more than we normally do.”
Hansen said he and Ebbett developed some quick chemistry after not playing together often.
“He just jumps right in,” said Hansen. “Obviously, Mason (Raymond) and I have played a lot together this year, and he jumps right in and it’s not a hard transition.”
Alex Edler, Raymond, Max Lapierre, Henrik Sedin, on a penalty shot, and David Booth, with his first of the season into an empty net, also scored for the Canucks.
Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Mike Fisher and Gabriel Bourque replied for the Predators, who outshot the Canucks 33-22.
“I didn’t think the score was an indication of how the game was,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “Unfortunately, everything that, I think, happened early was self-inflicted. The first goal was self-inflicted, and I thought the third goal was. We battled back, we had some chances but couldn’t bury enough.”
All goals came at even strength as Nashville was blanked on four power plays and Vancouver went scoreless on two.
Ebbett’s early opening goal sent the Canucks on a scoring tear, and Hansen’s second-period marker, which gave Vancouver a 5-2 lead, proved to be the winner after the Predators’ rally fell short.
Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne entered the game with two shutouts in his previous three games. But Ebbett opened the scoring early after Hansen stole the puck off Nashville defenceman Scott Hannan behind the net and sent it out front.
Rinne’s night ended after Lapierre increased the Canucks’ advantage to 4-1 five and a half minutes into the second period as he scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box.
Only 29 seconds later, Spaling reduced Nashville’s deficit to 4-2 as his goal-mouth pass went in off Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa.
But Hansen restored Vancouver’s three-goal lead at 13:48 of the second period. While skating down the wing, he directed the puck at Mason and Preds defenceman Ryan Ellis fell and carried the disk and Mason into the net.
Vancouver’s two second-period goals came on only four shots, while Nashville unleashed 12 at Luongo.
“That line (of Ebbett, Hansen and Raymond) in the first period was really, really strong,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “They were strong on the puck, Jannik can chase that puck and not get looked off like any of the top guys in the league.”
Bourque’s goal at 15:31 of the third reduced Nashville’s deficit to 5-5, but Henrik Sedin deked Mason on his penalty shot just over two minutes later.
The Canucks captain does not usually get the call in shootouts, but he totally confused Mason and was left with an empty net. Luongo, who had a strong night, indicated he was surprised by the goal, adding he has never seen Henrik Sedin score like that in practice.
But Hansen and Ebbett were still somewhat displeased after their strong night.
“When we go into the third up three goals, we definitely don’t want to be giving up one goal let alone two,” said Hansen. “So it’s something we have to clean up and make sure that we bury teams and we don’t let them (back) into the games.”
Ebbett was disappointed with his showing in face-offs as he lost 11 of 13 draws.
“We always joke: One game doesn’t make a season,” said Ebbett. “So I’ll be focusing for Saturday and, hopefully, build on it.”
Notes: The Canucks saluted Canada’s armed forces before and after the game. … Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa returned to Vancouver’s lineup after missing five games with a groin injury. … Canucks winger Steve Pinizzotto, 28, played his first NHL game after toiling in 285 minor-league contests. The Mississauga, Ont., native was recalled earlier Thursday from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and quickly made his presence known by fighting Kevin Klein on his first shift. … The Preds played without injured top scorer Colin Wilson (upper body) as well as defenceman Hal Gill (lower body) and forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Paul Gaustad (upper body) … As a result of Pinizzotto’s recall, Vancouver winger Tom Sestito was scratched along with defencemen Keith Ballard and Cam Barker.