VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Canucks’ frantic travel schedule is behind them but Mikael Samuelsson is maintaining his torrid scoring pace.
Samuelsson scored twice Saturday as the Canucks celebrated their first home game in 45 nights with a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The slick Swede was moved to the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin during Vancouver’s 14-game marathon road swing while the Winter Olympics took over GM Place.
But while he has picked up his scoring with nine goals in his last six games and a career-high 30, the slick Swede says the game doesn’t have to be played at warp speed with the twins.
“They play the game in the same way,” Samuelsson said.
“It doesn’t have to go 100 miles an hour every time. Everybody sees the ice pretty good to make some plays.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said playing at home seemed to lift the Canucks.
“They got a lot of momentum from the beginning, being in front of their home crowd,” Alfredsson said. “They put a lot of pressure on us.”
Samuelsson, an off-season signing after four seasons with Detroit, buried Pavol Demitra’s power-play pass to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead in a first period where they outshot the sluggish Senators 17-2.
He made it 3-1 in the second period by taking Henrik Sedin’s pass at the Ottawa blue-line and backhanding the puck in off the handle of Ottawa netminder Pascal Leclaire’s stick.
He’s on the biggest roll of his career after a 23-goal season was his best with the Red Wings.
He played with the Sedins when Sweden struck gold in the 2006 Winter Games and joining them again doesn’t hurt.
“It’s no secret, those two guys are really good,” Samuelsson said. “They find each other … right now I try to stay open and I get the puck once in awhile.”
Henrik Sedin said Samuelsson’s scoring streak has been fuelled by smart hockey.
“He’s not a tough guy to play with and we’re having a lot of fun,” said Sedin who tied Trevor Linden’s franchise record of 415 assists and equalled Thomas Gradin’s 549 points, fourth on Vancouver’s all-time list.
Samuelsson playing with the twins meant Alex Burrows, who’s also having a career year, dropped to the second line.
He hasn’t missed a beat.
Burrows ignited the Canucks with a short-handed goal that proved to be the winner after Jason Spezza gave the Senators a 1-1 tie on a rink-length dash early in the second period.
Ryan Kesler nudged a clearing attempt through the neutral zone. Burrows skated on to the puck as Leclair appeared undecided whether to come out of his net.
“Kes put a bit of a backspin on that one and Leclaire was kind of in between,” Burrows said of his fifth short-handed goal of the season and 31st of the season.
“Once (Leclaire’s) in between, I know I can slow down.”
Burrows faked Leclaire to the ice and slid the puck under the Ottawa netminder who faced 35 shots.
Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo, had a relatively easy night with 13 saves.
“We were excited to get back,” Luongo said.
“It’s been such a long time since we played here. For 60 minutes tonight we played some solid hockey.”
Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo, during a delayed penalty in the third period, scored the other Vancouver goals.
While the Canucks recorded their sixth straight home-ice win to stretch their Northwest Division lead to five points over Colorado, the Senators lost for the fifth time in six games.
Their offence has dried up with only four goals in the five defeats.
“I can’t put my finger on anything specific, but obviously we’ve got things to work on,” said Alfredsson whose club plays eight of its final 13 games on the road.
“We know we have to be a lot better going down the stretch. We’re definitely not where we want to be right now.”
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston also couldn’t explain the Senators’ effort.
“We weren’t ready to go,” he said. “They played like it was a playoff game and we weren’t ready to step our game up.”
Notes: Defenceman Kevin Bieksa returned to action after missing 27 games after left ankle tendons were severed by a skate cut … Vancouver went 18-7-2 during that stretch … Shane O’Brien was scratched to make way for Bieksa … defenceman Nolan Baumgartner and forward Tanner Glass were the other healthy Canuck scratches … Olympians on both clubs were saluted prior to the opening face-off.