VANCOUVER, B.C. – Henrik Sedin says he hasn’t played much basketball, but you wouldn’t know it by how the Vancouver Canucks centre was dishing behind-the-back passes on Saturday night.
Sedin was at his assist-giving best with three pretty helpers as the Canucks defeated the Northwest Division-rival Minnesota Wild 4-3. Not only did the three points move Sedin into a tie with New York Rangers star Marian Gaborik for second place on the NHL’s points list with 41, he upped his career total to 501.
“It’s fun, especially having all of them here in Vancouver,” Sedin said of his milestone. “It’s a fun city to play in. I hope I can reach 600 soon.”
That shouldn’t be a problem if he keeps playing like he did Saturday.
Sedin set up brother Daniel, Mason Raymond and Alex Burrows in the first period, and Ryan Kesler added another in the third as the Canucks (18-14-0) improved to 2-0 on their season-high eight-game home stand.
Since Daniel’s return from a rib injury 10 games ago, the Sedin twins and linemate Burrows have combined for 41 points. In the last six games, Henrik has 13 assists.
“Every play, he’s so smart,” Burrows said of Henrik Sedin. “Every time he gets it he’s finding ways to get it to the shooter, he sauces it through sticks or finds lanes to make the play and whether it’s on his forehand of backhand he’s able to make tape-to-tape passes. So it’s a lot of fun to watch him.”
Heading into the game Minnesota had won seven of eight, including an emotional 2-1 overtime victory over Calgary on Friday.
The Wild (15-14-3), who got goals from Shane Hnidy, Greg Zanon and Martin Havlat, held their own against Vancouver but were unable to contain the Canucks’ top line.
Daniel Sedin got the fun started on a Canucks power play 1:44 into the first off a neat backhand feed from Henrik Sedin. He faked a cross-ice pass and coolly lifted a wrist shot over goalie Josh Harding’s left shoulder.
Henrik Sedin made another highlight-reel pass about five minutes later when he dished out front to Raymond, who slipped the puck past Harding on another Canucks power play for a 2-0 lead.
After Hnidy cut the deficit to 2-1 with his first goal since Feb. 17, the Sedins took over once again.
This time they owned the puck for more than a minute in Minnesota’s zone, deking back and forth, passing through skates and putting on a show for the sellout crowd of 18,810 at GM Place.
The shift culminated when Burrows took a feed from Daniel Sedin and rifled a wrist shot high over Harding’s glove to make it 3-1.
“I think this is maybe the first game we’ve played where both (Sedins) have been in the lineup. They make a lot of really special plays out there,” said Minnesota centre Kyle Brodziak, who had two assists. “They’re obviously two gifted players who play with a lot of confidence.”
Despite the Sedins’ dominance, Minnesota refused to go away.
Zanon cut the lead to 3-2 with an odd goal that saw him bat a rebound out of the air, off the shaft of goaltender Roberto Luongo’s stick and into the net.
Minnesota dominated the second, outshooting Vancouver 18-8, but Luongo made several key stops, including a glove save on Mikko Koivu and a blocker stop on Havlat during a four-minute Minnesota power play.
Kesler made it 4-2 on another Canucks power play early in the third period when he wired a wrist shot off the post and in.
For Kesler it was his second goal in the last 17 games. Both came on the power play.
Havlat brought the Wild closer with 1:06 remaining when he tipped in a feed from Andrew Brunette for his fourth of the season.
The Wild made a strong push to tie it late, but Luongo shut the door.
NOTES: Minnesota went 49-20 in the faceoff circle, a 71 per cent success rate. “It was our worst faceoff night of the year. That’s all I can say,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. … Vancouver finished 3-for-5 on the power play. … Brunette played his 900th game Saturday. Since becoming a full-time NHLer in 1998-99, Brunette has played in more games (837) than any other player. He has missed just two games to injury since the 2001-02 season. … Struggling Canucks C Kyle Wellwood was a healthy scratch for a second straight game. Rugged sparkplug Rick Rypien again moved up from the fourth line to take his place on the third line. … Wild RW Owen Nolan missed his first game of the season after suffering a leg injury against Calgary on Friday.