VANCOUVER – Vancouver defenceman Aaron Rome doesn’t know how he transformed into an offensive juggernaut, but his teammates do.
“Lots of skill, great hands, a ton of speed,” said a chuckling Roberto Luongo after Rome scored a goal and two assists in the Canucks’ 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday.
“We’re fighting over who gets on the ice with him, who changes for his partner so you get a couple seconds out there with him just in case (he scores),” added Kevin Bieksa. “Everything he touches is turning to gold.”
Rome, known for tough play and dependability in his own zone, missed the first 14 games of the season with a broken thumb but now has three goals in his only four games, plus another tally that was called back.
In the first 131 regular season games of his career, he had two goals.
“I like to be in the background, but it’s not a big deal,” Rome said of the attention.
“When you play with confidence you don’t really think about what you’re doing, you maybe get back to the game that you played when you were younger. I played in offensive situations at all levels, so I knew that I kind of had it in me, but maybe not to this extent.”
Henrik Sedin and David Booth, into an empty net, also scored for Vancouver (9-8-1), which dominated the Islanders despite returning from a six-game road trip where they had a 3-3-0 record.
Matt Moulson replied for New York (4-7-3), which fell to 1-6-3 since starting the season 3-1-0. The Islanders are last in the Eastern Conference.
“I never call out guys but there are guys that need to (expletive) find their game and you’ve got to have some will,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Our team, let’s face it, there is not a lot of room for error, and once again we had a few guys that took a night off and we can’t have it.”
The Canucks are trying to regain last season’s form that saw them come within one game of winning the Stanley Cup, and Sunday’s contest was a decent start.
The Canucks went the whole game without taking a penalty and Luongo was strong in goal, making 23 saves. The defence, which has been error-prone for much of the season, limited New York’s chances. And a new-look offence, which featured an effective third line of Maxim Lapierre, Booth and Hodgson, peppered Evgeni Nabokov with 36 shots.
“I think our guys are finding their rhythm, their groove, and I think we’re getting close,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Hodgson in particular had one of his stronger games of the season.
With the Canucks leading 2-1 early in the third period, the 21-year-old rookie parked himself at the side of the net on a Canucks power-play and chipped an errant Rome shot past Nabokov for his fourth of the season.
Hodgson also got things rolling for Vancouver in the first period, leading a rush that ended with Rome backhanding a loose puck behind Nabokov on the first shot of the game.
“We had some good chemistry with Boothy and Lappy, and we had a lot of chances that we didn’t convert on, too,” said Hodgson. “As a line we feel comfortable.”
Henrik Sedin upped it to 2-0 on the first shot of the second period, when he took advantage of a Jannik Hansen screen and lofted a soft shot off Nabokov’s glove and in.
Nabokov, who was pulled in his last start after allowing three goals on 12 shots in a 6-2 loss in Boston, looked shaky on the play.
At the other end, the much-maligned Luongo had one of his best games of the season.
His best stop came six minutes into the third period, when he made a point-blank glove save off Michael Grabner that left the former Canuck looking skyward.
Moulson was the lone Islander to beat Luongo, charging hard to the net midway through the second period for his fourth goal of the year. John Tavares had just hit the crossbar before Moulson cleaned up the garbage.
Since Moulson joined forces with Tavares and Grabner to form New York’s top line, the trio has combined for four goals and five assists in four games.
“We’ve gotten our chances the last few games,” Grabner said. “We’ve just got to keep on working. We’ve only played three or four games together now so it’s coming a little better.”
Capuano pulled Nabokov for an extra attacker with 3:30 remaining, but it didn’t pay off as Booth scored his second as a Canuck to make it 4-1.
NOTES: The Canucks didn’t take a penalty in the game, and went 1-3 on the power play. … New York remained winless on the road (0-4-2). … Luongo was originally drafted by the Islanders, fourth overall in 1997. … Daniel Sedin had his three-game point streak (1-6-7) snapped, but remains second in the NHL with 22 points. Toronto’s Phil Kessel has 24 points. … Vancouver D Dan Hamhuis saw his five-game point streak (2-4-6) stopped.