VANCOUVER, B.C. – Daniel Sedin hasn’t missed a step, even though a broken bone in his left foot kept him out of the Vancouver Canucks lineup for 18 games.
Sedin scored Vancouver’s first three goals Thursday as the Canucks kick-started a crucial eight-game homestand with a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
“The first few games (back from injury) were tough,” said Sedin who returned to the lineup on Nov. 22 after being hit by a shot from teammate Alex Edler. “You were a step behind.
“It was almost like starting the season over again but we were playing pretty good at that time and it made it easy coming back.”
Sedin, who led the Canucks with 31 goals last season, now has six in the nine games he has played since the injury.
His return has been a tonic for linemates Alex Burrows and twin brother Henrik Sedin as the trio combined for 15 of Vancouver’s 38 shots on Thrashers netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
“Obviously, with him on his line with Burrows, that’s a line that brings a lot of puck-possession time,” said Canuck coach Alain Vigneault.
“And, tonight, when they were on the ice, they were really dominant all the way through. So it was a really good game for them.”
Burrows and Henrik Sedin each had two assists, making it a seven-point night for the trio.
Early pressure was the key said Daniel Sedin, who got his first hat trick since Feb. 6, 2007 and could have had more but hit the crossbar on a shot from the left wing on his first shift.
“We knew they played (Wednesday) night so we wanted to get in there and get a good forecheck going,” he said.
“As a team, we did a good job the whole night and didn’t give them too many chances.”
He scored 3:09 after the opening face-off on a wraparound, then directed his brother’s weak shot past Pavelec for a 2-1 first-period lead.
Pavelec, who faced 38 shots, misplayed Sedin’s sharp-angled shot in the decisive second period when the Canucks took a 4-1 lead on Mason Raymond’s tip of Mikael Samuelsson’s shot.
Nik Antropov, on a power play, and Colby Armstrong scored for the Thrashers, who lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped to 15-11-3.
The Canucks, who held a players-only meeting after the morning skate, ended a two-game losing skid and improved to 17-14.
“They are really good players, and every time they’re on the ice, you have to be careful because those two guys are (two) of the best players in the NHL,” Pavelec said of the Sedins. “(Daniel) showed us today. We tried to come back and he scored the second goal.”
The game was the first as a pro in his home town for Thrasher rookie Evander Kane, who felt he scored a goal but officials ruled the play dead when Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo made the initial save.
“No question it was in, but the way the rules are it just is what it is,” said Atlanta coach John Anderson.
“We never quit. We’ve come back quite a few times this year so it’s not uncharacteristic but there’s only so many hits you can take.”
The Canucks generated several odd-man rushes, especially in the final 40 minutes after getting into penalty trouble in the first period.
“It was a bit more of an open-up game tonight,” said Raymond who ended a five-game goal drought with his 10th of the season.
“Their (defencemen) were pinching but we were making good chips and we were getting two-on-ones. We just need to capitalize on them a little more.”
Ilya Kovalchuck, tagged with a misconduct penalty at the end of the game, said the Thrashers, who have only eight goals in their last five games, have to improve at both ends of the rink.
“We should be better defensively (and) we’re going to watch the video and be better next game,” he said of Saturday’s home date with the Montreal Canadiens.
Canuck Rick Rypien scored a decision over Boris Valabik in a spirited third-period scrap. Rypien weighs 170 pounds, 75 less than the Slovak.
Notes: Kane, a former WHL Vancouver Giant, had ice time totalling 12:49 … the contest was the finale of a four-game road trip for the Thrashers … it was the only time the two clubs faced each other this season … Canuck centre Alex Bolduc hopes to return to the lineup next week while winger Pavol Demitra is aiming for the end of the month … both are rehabbing shoulder injuries … Vancouver doesn’t play on the road again until Dec. 27 in Calgary.