VANCOUVER – Max Lapierre made the most of an unlikely promotion Friday night.
Lapierre, a perennial fourth-liner, was moved up to the first line and did not disappoint. He scored a goal and added two assists as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Friday night.
“I didn’t wish it, but I was a little bit surprised (Friday) morning,” said Lapierre about hearing of the move. “It was a fun night for me.”
The Canucks (48-21-9) posted their fifth straight win and moved within a point of the idle Western-Conference leading St. Louis Blues.
The Stars (42-31-5) fell out of first place in the Pacific Division and, at least temporarily, lost the third playoff seed in the West. They needed a win after the Los Angeles Kings moved ahead of them with a victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault moved Lapierre up a day after he celebrated his 27th birthday. Lapierre brought out the best from longtime linemates Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows while filling in for Daniel Sedin, who missed his fifth consecutive contest with a concussion.
Burrows scored a goal while Henrik Sedin recorded three assists.
“They had a line back in the day called the French Connection,” said Henrik Sedin, who felt he played his best game in a while. “We had that line tonight, so it was good.”
Burrows, the second francophone on the unit, said Lapierre showed he can play an offensive role when called upon. He does not get enough credit for his offensive abilities.
“When he plays with confidence and with that speed, he looks like Guy Lafleur out there,” said Burrows. “Guys like to give it to him. They (chanted) ‘Guy, Guy, Guy’ once he got into the locker-room. But he’s a great teammate, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
Burrows’ goal was his first in eight games. Chris Higgins, Sami Salo, with his first goal in 16 games, and Andrew Alberts, who ended a 28-game goal drought, also scored for the Canucks.
Steve Ott and Jake Dowell replied for the Stars.
“We’ve got to kick the losses as quick as we can and move on to the next game, because there’s only four left now,” said Ott.
He credited Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider with holding the Stars off as they outshot Vancouver 34-30. Schneider recorded 32 saves en route to his 12th win in his past 14 starts. He was a surprise starter after Roberto Luongo left the pre-game warmup early with a stiff neck.
Vigneault said the netminder had a stiff neck in the morning and afternoon treatment and the pre-game warmup did not loosen it up sufficiently.
“You never want to be forced into that situation,” said Schneider. “You hope everything is fine with Lou, but that’s my job.”
After being involved in several close games recently, Vancouver got untracked offensively. The Canucks led 1-0 after the first and 3-1 after the second.
Higgins opened the scoring 6:17 into the game, putting in a pass from Jannik Hansen after the puck had bounced off Dallas defenceman Alex Goligoski. It was the fourth goal in four games for Higgins, who scored the lone goal against Colorado.
Ott evened the score at 3:16 of the second period as he put in his own rebound. The Stars got the puck originally after Ott won the face-off and Schneider gave up a big rebound on an attempt by Jamie Benn.
A short time later, Schneider foiled Ott after he broke down the wing and unleashed a shot while the Stars were shorthanded. Schneider robbed Vernon Fiddler on a one-timer from the slot with Dallas still playing shorthanded.
With just over seven minutes gone in the second, Schneider robbed Loui Eriksson on a two-on-one.
Then it was Dallas starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s time to shine. He denied Dale Weise as he took a pass at the blue-line, rushed into the zone and was tripped by Adam Pardy while trying to stuff in the puck. Pardy was penalized for tripping, setting the stage for Salo’s power-play goal.
Alberts put the Canucks ahead 3-1 about five and a half minutes later as he cruised into the zone and fired Henrik Sedin’s cross-ice pass in off Dallas defenceman Stephane Robidas.
It was only his second goal in 77 contests.
Burrows put the Canucks ahead 4-1 midway through the third period after he took a Henrik Sedin pass off his skate by the side of the net, kicked the puck to his forehand and beat Lehtonen. Less than a minute after the goal, Lehtonen was replaced in the Dallas net by Richard Bachman.
About a minute later, Lapierre scored on Vancouver’s first shot on Bachman. Dowell closed out the scoring with 2:42 left in the game.
Now, it’s just a question of how long Lapierre’s promotion will last.
“That line got more comfortable as the game went on,” said Vigneault. “I’m not saying I foresee it staying together in the future, but it’s nice to see some guys can step up.”
Notes: Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa missed his second straight game. Associate coach Rick Bowness said the team continues to give him “maintenance days.” … Canucks left-winger Aaron Volpatti, out since December with a shoulder injury that required surgery, is recovering quicker than expected and could be back in time for the playoffs. Initially, he was expected to miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs. … Dallas defenceman Mark Fistric (abdominal strain) and winger Radek Dvorak (undisclosed upper-body problem) remained out with injuries.