VANCOUVER – The Toronto Maple Leafs brought out the best in Alex Burrows and the Sedin twins Saturday night.
The trio combined for 10 points as the Canucks dumped the Leafs 6-2 before a loud sellout crowd of 18,890 at Rogers Arena.
Burrows, who thrives on playing the Leafs since he developed a distinct dislike for them while growing up in Montreal and cheering for the Canadiens, scored two goals. Daniel Sedin provided a goal and three assists and Henrik Sedin added four helpers.
“I watched a lot of games as a kid against the Maple Leafs, always cheered for my Habs, so it’s nice to beat them,” said Burrows, who had a cut nose after running into a referee.
Burrows now has eight goals and seven assists in 10 career games against Toronto. The Sedins’ offensive eruption came after they had both gone three games without a point, causing plenty of angst for sports radio talk show callers. The twins had also struggled at times during December and January.
“We didn’t play our best for, I think, a month, a month and a half, and that’s something we had to change,” Daniel Sedin said. “We played better the last few games and hadn’t got the results. But tonight we played the same way and got a few good ones.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said he was sure the superstar twins would break out sooner rather than later.
“You knew in (the Sedins’) case it was just a matter of time before they’d get on the scoresheet, and tonight they had a real big game in a great atmosphere,” Vigneault said.
It was Vancouver’s 10th straight win over Toronto, covering a span of more than eight years.
Manny Malhotra, Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa also scored for the Canucks (37-15-6) as they posted their sixth win in the past seven games. Conversely, the Leafs (29-24-6) suffered their sixth loss in seven outings. Vancouver has not lost to Toronto since November 2003.
“We played a really good team tonight with probably our battery down a little bit,” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson. “They really took advantage of us. Every little opening, they moved the puck really well and we had our heads spinning at times in our own end.”
Dion Phaneuf and Nikolai Kulemin, with 19.2 seconds left in the game, replied for the Maple Leafs, who were outshot 36-26.
“We talked about the way we wanted to execute our game plan, but for most of the night we didn’t do what we talked about,” Phaneuf said.
Vancouver converted one of two power-play opportunities. Toronto was blanked on two.
The crowd chanted “Leafs suck!” just before the teams came out for the start of the game. The Leafs also drew loud cheers from their block of fans at Rogers Arena, but struggled to convert their chances against a solid Vancouver defence and goaltender Roberto Luongo.
The Canucks led 2-0 after a first period in which they outshot the Maple Leafs 11-4 and 5-1 after 40 minutes.
The one-sided win came after many close encounters for Vancouver. It was only the fifth time in the last 15 games that the Canucks did not go to overtime or a shootout.
“It was nice to get a few goals tonight and not play a game where you need to come back in the last few minutes,” Henrik Sedin said.
He said the rest will help the Canucks as they play the second of back-to-back games in Edmonton on Sunday to start a seven-game road trip.
The Leafs threatened briefly in the second period. However, the Canucks quickly rallied.
About three minutes after Burrows’ second goal gave the Canucks a 3-0 lead early the middle frame, Phaneuf put Toronto on the scoreboard as he one-timed a Phil Kessel cross-ice pass behind Luongo.
Moments later, the Canuck goaltender made a diving blocker save on Joffrey Lupul to maintain Vancouver’s two-goal advantage. Then Luongo foiled Kessl on a rebound during a Toronto power play, gloving the puck after the Leaf fanned on the shot. Kessel slammed his stick against the boards in frustration.
“We responded right away,” said Luongo. “I think it was a key moment in the game, and it was nice the boys went right back the other side and scored a couple.”
Shortly afterward, Daniel Sedin scored, sending Leafs starting goaltender James Reimer to the bench in favour of Jonas Gustavsson. Salo scored a 1:34 later on a power play. It was the first shot a screened Gustavsson faced.
Wilson refused to blame his goaltenders or his top forward unit of Kessel, Lupul and Bozak.
“The Kessel line, they were dangerous even though they ended up being minus on the night,” Wilson said. “They created a lot of openings. After two periods, we had three forwards with a shot on goal. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Notes: Canucks centre Cody Hodgson, a Toronto native who was almost born at Maple Leaf Gardens, celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday. … Canucks D Keith Ballard missed his fifth straight game with a neck injury that is also being investigated for a concussion. … Leafs D Luke Schenn returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch during Wednesday’s overtime win in Edmonton. He assisted on Kulemin’s late goal. As a result of Schenn’s return, rearguard Mike Komisarek went back to the press box after playing in Edmonton and Calgary. … Injured Toronto D Carl Gunnarsson (ankle) has resumed skating on his own. … Late in the game, a fan threw a dead salmon on the ice.