VANCOUVER, B.C. – A road-weary Ottawa team proved to be the perfect tonic for slumping Vancouver scorers Henrik Sedin and Pavol Demitra.
Sedin and Demitra scored a goal and an assist each to pace the Canucks to a 3-0 victory over the Senators on Sunday.
Defenceman Alex Edler added a highlight-reel goal and goaltender Curtis Sanford earned his first shutout in nearly three years as the Canucks (20-14-3) broke a two-game losing streak.
“If you play with those two guys you’re going to score goals and get a lot of chances,” Demitra said of being reunited on the top line with brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The trio had been split up in recent games as coach Alain Vigneault tried to spread out the team’s scoring.
“Those guys have so much skill, and obviously we are similar players,” Demitra said. “I just try to fit in. I like to cycle. They like to cycle. They have great patience with the puck, so it’s easy for me”.
It wasn’t just easy for Demitra against Ottawa. Aside from a quality scoring chance three minutes into the game, the fragile Senators, fresh off a 6-3 loss in Calgary the night before, were never in the game.
Ottawa (12-17-5) was outshot 17-5 in the first period and had just 18 shots overall en route to losing its 12th straight road game and watching its league-worst away record drop to 3-11-2.
“This is a tough time for this team,” Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said. “It’s adversity and adversity will reveal our character. It’s not going to build our character, it’s going to reveal it.”
Henrik Sedin opened scoring 8:17 into the contest after a Nick Foligno turnover in the Ottawa zone. Sedin, alone in front, took a feed from Demitra and converted his own rebound for his fifth goal of the season and first in 10 games.”
Sedin is known more for his passing – only Joe Thornton, Marc Savard and Pavel Datsyuk have more assists since the 2003-04 season – but the slick centre says he is trying to put the puck on net more these days.
“We know we’re going to get our chances, and for me to get a couple more shots every game is going to help the team,” he said. “I’m going to try to continue that”.
Sedin went back to setting up goals in the second period, starting the play that led to Demitra’s breakaway goal at 10:16. After the Sedin twins worked their magic, Demitra took a feed from Daniel Sedin, skated in alone on Ottawa goaltender Martin Gerber and ripped a shot past his blocker for his 11th goal of the season.
Demitra’s two points snapped a five-game drought.
“The last couple games I had many chances and had a hard time putting the puck in the net,” Demitra said. “Finally I got some breaks today.”
Edler, a sophomore defenceman who has struggled for parts of the season, made it 3-0 at 17:10 of the middle frame with a goal Bobby Orr would have been proud of.
Edler corralled the puck behind his own net, eluded Mike Fisher, skated up ice and split Foligno and Dany Heatley before ripping a 60-foot slapshot past Gerber low on the blocker side.
The goal, Edler’s third of the campaign and first in six games, brought the sellout crowd of 18,630 to its feet.
“My teammates called me Bobby Orr a couple of times,” chuckled Edler. “I haven’t really seen him play, but I know who he is obviously.”
Vancouver was playing so soundly Sanford almost got lost in the shuffle. But if not for his steady play, the contest could have turned out much differently.
Sanford, the back-up who’s filling in for injured No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo (groin), bailed his team out 3:05 into the first period with a sliding left pad save off Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson on a 2-on-1 to keep the game scoreless.
It was his best stop of the game, but he was also sharp on an Antoine Vermette wrister in the second period and preserved his shutout by foiling Shean Donovan on an in-close chance with two minutes remaining. In total, Sanford made 18 saves for his first shutout since Jan. 23, 2006, a span of 76 games.
“I have to make those saves,” Sanford said of the Alfredsson chance. “It’s nice to make key saves at key times. I think it gives the team a boost”.
Clearly frustrated with the way the game was going, Senators enforcer Chris Neil edged Darcy Hordichuk in a bout early in the third period and got into a skirmish with Jason Jaffray in the dying minutes.
Neil’s efforts to spark his team didn’t work, however, as Ottawa dropped to 0-3 on its eight-game road swing.
“We showed more like we cared in the third period, but we’ve got to be much better,” said centre Mike Fisher, who was a minus-2. “It’s been a struggle but we’ve all got to do more and look in the mirror.”
The Senators try to break their slump Tuesday in Edmonton.
NOTES: Eighteen shots against was a season low for Vancouver. … Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips had a rough night. Not only did his five-game point streak come to an end, but Phillips finished minus-2 to drop to minus-19 on the season. … The Senators didn’t take the morning skate. … Canucks coach Alain Vigneault needed six stitches after taking an errant puck in the head in the first period. … Vancouver improved on its league lead for fewest goals allowed at home. The Canucks have surrendered 30 goals in 17 games at GM Place.