ST. PAUL, Minn. – Vancouver captain Markus Naslund did his talking on the ice.
Naslund scored three goals, and the Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Wednesday night. Ryan Kesler also scored and Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin each had two assists for the Canucks, 6-0-2 in their last eight games. Vancouver has gone 9-0-2 against Northwest Division opponents this season and moved into a first-place tie with Minnesota.
Marian Gaborik scored twice for the Wild, who lost for the first time in four home games.
“The buildup to this game was all about the remarks of the revenge. You can’t intimidate the (Sedin) twins and Markus Naslund,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
Each team entered the game with considerable anger directed at the other side since last Friday’s game in Vancouver.
In that one, Vancouver’s Mattias Ohlund earned a four-game suspension for his two-handed slash against Mikko Koivu after Koivu elbowed him in the head. Koivu has missed the past two games with a cracked bone in his left leg but might return next week.
The Canucks were also upset about Gaborik elbowing Kesler in the head, and they said Stephane Veilleux shot the puck at Mike Weaver in the waning seconds of the Canucks’ 6-2 win. Veilleux has denied the charge.
Perceiving that some of his Wild teammates were victims of chippy play, enforcer Derek Boogaard said maybe he should check Naslund and the Sedins, whom he referred to as Pinky and the Brain – genetically enhanced lab mice in a cartoon.
“Our guys were focused and ready,” Vigneault said. “They’re intellectually pretty smart. They don’t all watch Pinky and the Brain. They’re focused on hockey, and that’s what they did tonight.”
Like most games between the clubs, this one was physical but called tightly by referees Greg Kimmerly and Mick McGeough. Vancouver’s Mike Brown, who had three points and 69 penalty minutes in 17 AHL games this season before being recalled Monday, fought Aaron Voros in the first period for the game’s lone bout.
“For people that wanted to see something that wasn’t good, clean hockey, it might have been a bit of a letdown,” Minnesota defenceman Sean Hill said. “But we have to worry about winning games. We have to worry about getting two points.”
With the game tied 2-2 early in the third period, Naslund charged in from the right side to tip a wrist shot from Daniel Sedin past Josh Harding. It was his sixth goal in four games, after scoring four in his first 17 contests.
Naslund and Henrik Sedin perfectly executed a 2-on-1 with 3:33 to play to give Naslund his 11th career three-goal game.
“Any divisional game is so important,” Naslund said. “You’ve got to be disciplined and try to take advantage when you get the chances. You know Minnesota is usually playing a good defensive game.”
Gaborik was disappointed the Wild didn’t put forth a better effort with crucial points on the line.
“The games against Colorado, Calgary, Vancouver, they are always tight and physical,” he said. “We just have to be extra ready for those games and try to win as many games as we can. Too bad we didn’t win this one.”
Vancouver, 7-2-1 on the road, scored twice in 22 seconds to take a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Naslund scored on the power play, when at the left post he redirected a ricochet off the end boards past Harding at 6:27. Kesler completed a rush by scoring on a wraparound at 6:49.
Gaborik beat Curtis Sanford with a one-timer less than a minute later and scored a power-play goal at 10:30 by sending a wrist shot past by Sanford to tie it.
Minnesota had just 20 shots on goal against a Vancouver defence that was missing three injured regulars – Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo.
“We felt like we didn’t give them much out there. Most of the stuff they generated was stuff we kind of gave to them,” Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell said. “We’re playing a little tighter system, and because of that we’re getting results.”
Notes: The game concluded a stretch of eight straight games against divisional foes for both teams. … Hill played for the first time this season. While with the New York Islanders, he was suspended on April 19 for 20 games after testing positive for steroids. Hill has said he doesn’t know how the banned substance got into his system. … Sanford started in goal for Vancouver for the first time in 12 games. It was his second start of the season. … Wild LW Pavol Demitra took part in the team’s morning skate, but missed his seventh straight game due to a strained groin.