VANCOUVER – Steve Bernier wasn’t pretty, but he was gritty Thursday night.
As a result, his linemates Henrik and Daniel Sedin had plenty of room to roam – and score – as the Canucks edged Bernier’s old club, the San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in NHL pre-season action at General Motors Place. Bernier and the Sedins accounted for all of Vancouver’s goals. Henrik netted the winner 39 seconds into the third period while Bernier and Daniel scored power-play goals in the second to help the Canucks overcome a 1-0 first-period deficit.
“I played three years in San Jose and it was very important for me to have a good game,” said Bernier. “For us to win this game, even though it doesn’t mean anything, I feel my confidence and so I have the confidence to help the team.”
The Canucks remain unbeaten after six pre-season contests while the Sharks suffered their fourth loss in six outings. While Bernier’s effort was meaningless standings-wise, it meant a lot to Vancouver’s power play, which often struggled in 2007-08. Unofficially, the Canucks scored three times with the man-advantage.
Henrik Sedin’s winning goal came one second after an interference penalty to Rob Blake, taken late in the second period, had expired.
“We can’t be too much up and down like we were last year,” said Henrik Sedin. “We won games when our power play was going, but then our power play wasn’t working for 10 or 11 games in a row and we lost a lot of games.”
Bernier joined the Canucks in an off-season trade from Buffalo for the modest price of a third-round draft choice after the Sharks dealt him to the Sabres at the trade deadline last season, along with a first-round pick, for defenceman Brian Campbell, who subsequently bolted to Chicago via free agency.
The Canucks specifically acquired the six-foot-two, 225-pound Quebec City native to skate alongside the Sedins, who have not had an offensively-reliable linemate since Anson Carter left a couple of seasons back. Bernier did not disappoint as the Sedins, playing only their third pre-season contest, combined for five points.
“My job is, go get the puck in the corner, give it to one of the two brothers, go to the front of the net and screen the goalie,” said Bernier. “All of the goals I scored in the past have never been very pretty.”
Bernier created a 1-1 tie on a power play at 5:24 of the second period. He put in Sami Salo’s rebound as Henrik Sedin created havoc in front of Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The goal came with only three seconds left in Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s holding penalty.
Daniel Sedin gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead with another power-play marker about three minutes later as he jammed home Kevin Bieksa’s rebound.
“Steve going to the front of the net was permitting us to shoot the puck from the point, and something happens every time,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “It’s not rocket science. It’s some big body in front of the net and hack and whack.”
But Henrik Sedin said Bernier gives the line some bounce because of his intelligence, not his physical play.
“It’s not about his size,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s about the way he sees the ice and the way he seems to make plays. That’s how you create room. It’s not about hitting guys. I think it’s about him finding the spot to create chances.”
Bernier now has three points – two goals and an assist – in just three games. He is starting to feel more comfortable playing with the talented twins after initially struggling to adjust to their signature cycling style.
“I’ve been watching video of them,” said Bernier. “I think it’s very important for me to kind of know where they’re going to be on the ice. So, watching videos, I think it’s helping me a lot.”
Riley Armstrong and Joe Pavelski replied for the Sharks as they suffered their fourth loss in six outings.
Vancouver went two-for-six on the power play while the Sharks were held scoreless on seven man-advantage opportunities. San Jose outshot the Canucks 33-20.
“Our first power play was terrible, but after that we definitely had some chances,” said San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle. “But special teams won this game.”
Pavelski created a 2-2 tie at 15:59 of the middle frame as he put in Ryan Clowe’s rebound off the glass while Vancouver goaltender Curtis Sanford was turning around in his net.
Henrik Sedin scored the winner on a similar play in the first minute of the final period as he fired in defenceman Kevin Bieksa’s rebound off the glass.
San Jose pressed for the equalizer late in the game. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Alex Burrows gave the Sharks a power play for most of the final two minutes, but Sanford was unbeatable as the Canucks were outshot 13-4 in the third.
Notes: San Jose star Joe Thornton sat out the third period with a groin injury. . . . The Canucks assigned goaltender Cory Schneider, centre Alex Bolduc and defenceman Shawn Heska to Manitoba of the AHL earlier Thursday. . . . Vigneault rested Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra after they recorded three points apiece in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Calgary. Highly touted 18-year-old rookie Cody Hodgson, who must return to junior if he does not make the Canucks, also sat out. . . . Canucks defenceman Mattias Ohlund, hoping to rebound from an injury riddled 2007-08 season, is now sidelined with an infected tooth.