VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella leaned heavily on his first line during the team’s recent seven-game road trip.
Monday night was just more of the same.
Daniel Sedin scored the winner in the third after helping to set up linemate Ryan Kesler’s tying goal a few minutes earlier as the Canucks rallied to defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2.
Fresh off a 5-1-1 road trip, the Canucks found themselves down 2-1 early in the final period despite dominating the Capitals in all three zones.
That’s when the line of Kesler, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin took over to help Vancouver to its fourth straight victory.
“They had the puck a lot tonight,” said Tortorella of the trio. “They’ve been consistent so we’ll keep them together and see where we go with it.”
After the teams traded goals early in the third period, Kesler and the Sedins played keepaway in the Washington zone to give Vancouver the lead for good. Daniel Sedin finished the sequence off by faking a pass at the top of the slot and blasting a shot past Washington goalie Michael Neuvirth at 5:01 for a 3-2 lead.
“Resiliency. You go down early in the third and we find a way to battle back and get the go-ahead (goal),” said Kesler, who along with the Sedins played over 23 minutes. “That’s the way our team’s been all year.”
Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin was stopped on a penalty shot by Roberto Luongo just 79 seconds into the game and was also on for both the tying and winning goals.
“When the Kesler goal was scored it was my guy, I was kind of playing position as centre and the third goal, he make a great move and (Capitals forward Marcus Johansson) was kind of guessing,” he said. “Two shifts cost us the game.”
Kesler now has five goals and three assists in his last five games since being paired with the Sedins after scoring just once in the first six games of the season.
“Through the whole year (Kesler) has done all the things we’ve asked of him and now the puck’s going in for him,” said Tortorella. “I’m happy he’s getting rewarded, because he deserves it.”
Luongo made 17 saves to get the victory, while Zack Kassian also scored for Vancouver (9-4-1), which played at Rogers Arena for the first time since Oct. 12. Henrik Sedin’s assist on the winner extended his point streak to nine games.
Jason Chimera, with a goal and an assist, and Mikhail Grabovski scored for Washington (5-7-0), which got 38 stops from Neuvirth.
The final period started well for Washington initially, with Grabovski beating Luongo glove side at 1:52 to give the Capitals their first lead at 2-1, but Kesler tied it up again with his eighth of the season by slapping a puck past Neuvirth just 61 seconds later.
Daniel Sedin then scored his fourth of the campaign as Vancouver finished the night with a 41-19 edge in shots.
“They stayed in the game and they got that second goal and it’s tough to come back from those, but we were able to score two pretty quick ones,” said Henrik Sedin. “First game back after a long road trip, we got a good start. They took over a little bit late in the first but after that I thought we should have won this maybe a little bit more comfortably.”
Tied 1-1 after the first period, Vancouver outshot Washington 16-3 in the second but couldn’t find a way past Neuvirth.
Canucks defenceman Jason Garrison walked into a one-timer on a power play early in the period that Neuvirth was equal to. Ovechkin then hit the post behind Luongo off the rush on a Washington man advantage.
The Canucks opened the scoring at 11:31 of the first period on Kassian’s second goal of the season. The big forward moved down the right wing and snapped a shot past Neuvirth on the short side.
Asked about Kassian’s performance, Tortorella was blunt: “Good at times, crappy at times. But he’s coming. He still has to work on his consistency.”
Washington tied the score just over three minutes at 14:36 later when Mike Green’s shot from the point found Chimera’s stick at the edge of the crease. Chimera, who has goals in three straight games, started the sequence with a big hit in the Vancouver zone.
Ovechkin was awarded his penalty shot at 1:19 of the period when he was pulled down on a partial breakaway. Tied for the NHL lead in goals with 10, Ovechkin got Luongo goalie moving with his first fake, but was unable to finish.
“If he scores on a penalty shot it’s a whole different feeling for a player of that calibre,” said Capitals head coach Adam Oates. “He had a couple chances. We have to figure out a way to get more.”
Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows returned to the lineup after breaking a bone in his right foot in the season opener.
Although Burrows was back healthy, Vancouver’s sick bay is still a busy place. Tortorella will be without David Booth for about two weeks, while fellow forwards Jannik Hansen and Dale Weise are each expected to miss three-to-four weeks.
Still on the injury front, Canucks forward Jordan Schroeder, who hurt is left foot blocking a shot in the pre-season, will require surgery to insert a pin in his ankle. Tortorella said he expects the second-year man to be out for two months.
All the walking wounded for Vancouver meant that Canucks forward Darren Archibald played his second career NHL game, while Jeremy Walsh suited up for the fifth time.
Notes: The Canucks continue their three-game homestand on Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings. … Vancouver will retire Pavel Bure’s No. 10 jersey before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. … The Capitals conclude their season-long five-game road trip on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers. … Famed musician Phil Collins was in attendance.