VANCOUVER, B.C. – The St. Louis Blues shut down the Vancouver Canucks’ dangerous top line, but Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler were there to pick up the slack.
Raymond had two goals and an assist and Kesler added three helpers as Vancouver beat the Blues 3-2 on Wednesday.
The Canucks (33-18-2) posted a season-high sixth straight victory in their final home game before a 14-game road trip surrounding the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It’s definitely nice to end on a win before we head out for six weeks,” said Raymond, who now has a career-high 20 goals on the season.
The Blues (23-22-8) held Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows in check as they all went pointless for one of the few times this season. Burrows’ 12-game points streak, the third-longest in the NHL so far in 2009-10, came to an end while both Sedins had five-game point streaks terminated.
“It’s not just the Sedins,” said Blues goaltender Ty Conklin of Vancouver’s firepower. “They carry the bulk of the offence but it’s not like they’re without secondary scoring.”
Raymond, who has three goals in four games after being blanked in 10 straight, and Kesler assisted on Christian Ehrhoff’s winning power-play goal at 12:12 of the third. Ehrhoff’s shot from the side boards deflected off St. Louis defenceman Barrett Jackman and snuck between Conklin’s pad and the post.
“It’s one of those nights where for me it feels like bounces start to go your way and you’re getting a few opportunities,” said Raymond. “We created a little bit with our speed to open up the ice and were lucky enough to pop three home.”
Keith Tkachuk and T.J. Oshie replied for the Blues.
“We didn’t get the shots on net we wanted,” said Oshie. “We ended up coming back. Unfortunately we just got into a bit of penalty trouble.”
“We were in position but they found a way to get the extra one on the power play,” added St. Louis interim coach Davis Payne.
Ehrhoff’s winning goal came 32 seconds after Paul Kariya was penalized for slashing Henrik Sedin.
“(Kariya) slashed my hand – that’s the bottom line – and the (referee) closest didn’t think so,” said Henrik Sedin. “But the guy that was furthest away made the call – that’s what happens sometimes.”
Payne was less sure about the referee’s call.
” As far as that play, I’m disappointed it came down to that (power play),” he said.
Vancouver outshot the Blues 34-27 but struggled to score against Conklin, who recorded 31 saves.
In their previous meeting on New Year’s Eve, the Canucks overcame a 3-0 lead to beat St. Louis 4-3 in overtime, costing former St. Louis coach Andy Murray his job. This time, the Blues almost turned the tables for their new coach as they staged a comeback attempt after taking an early lead.
Tkachuk’s power-play goal gave the Blues a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game at 4:24 of the opening period. But Raymond tied the game 1:17 later when he deflected in Kesler’s shot after David Perron turned the puck over in the Blues’ zone.
After a scoreless second period, Raymond put the Canucks ahead 2-1 at 3:37 of the third as he faked a slapshot and then put home a wrist shot.
But Oshie tied the game 2-2 midway through the third, converting a pass from David Backes – setting the stage for Raymond and Kesler to shine in a supporting role.
“That’s a part of winning consistently, you need secondary scoring and guys to chip in,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “I thought Mason Raymond again tonight played a real strong game – and it’s not by accident. If there’s one player on our team right now that is going the extra mile as far as trying to improve himself as a player it’s Mason.”
Vigneault downplayed the significance of the additional mileage that the Canucks will rack up on their lengthy road trip, which includes eight outings before the Games and six afterwards. But Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, whose next game at General Motors Place will be in a Team Canada uniform during the Olympics, said the Canucks needed to deliver a fond farewell to their fans.
We definitely wanted to finish off on a winning note,” said Luongo. “We’re not going to be playing here for a while, so it was important for us, especially going into the third tied 1-1. We really wanted to put together a good 20 minutes there and we got some big goals, and it’s obviously a huge win for us before we head out.”
Vancouver went one-for-five on the power play while the Blues converted one of two man-advantage opportunities. Henrik Sedin praised the Raymond and Kesler’s second line for producing a power play goal at the right time.
True to form, Henrik Sedin, the NHL’s leading scorer, was more concerned about the Canucks’ win than his line’s lack of offence.
“We have to put this behind us and be proud of what we did and move on,” he said.
The Canucks start their road trip Saturday in Toronto.
Notes: A pre-game ceremony saluted Olympians from both teams. … Backes, who has been the subject of a rumoured trade to Vancouver, returned to action after missing three games with an upper-body injury. … Canucks defencemen Willie Mitchell (concussion) and Sami Salo (groin) remained out with injuries. Mitchell will not travel for the start of the road trip but might suit up somewhere along the way. … Barring unforeseen circumstances, Henrik Sedin with play his 700th career game Saturday. … Daniel Sedin has 23 more games to go to reach 700 after missing 18 earlier this season because of a fractured foot.