VANCOUVER – Daniel Sedin missed 19 games last season and watched as his twin brother won the league’s scoring title.
This year, it’s his turn to make a run at the Art Ross Trophy.
The slick Swede scored twice and added an assist Saturday to move into the NHL scoring lead as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Dallas Stars 5-2.
Sedin sits with 77 points, two ahead of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and five up on brother Henrik, who also had three points against Dallas.
“Of course if would be nice,” Daniel Sedin said of winning the scoring title, “but it’s nothing I skate around thinking about.”
Henrik Sedin says his brother’s play has flown under the radar this season.
“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about it, but he’s been playing great from Day 1 in training camp,” Henrik said. “He’s not the fastest guy in the league and he doesn’t have the greatest shot. He scores goals with great hand-eye (co-ordination), good timing. … It’s not great to watch all the time, but it’s effective.”
Daniel Sedin opened the scoring 2:46 into the game, banking a sharp-angle shot in off of Dallas goalie Andrew Raycroft’s right pad.
He added insurance midway through the third period, wiring a wrist shot off the back crossbar on a partial breakaway to give Vancouver a 3-1 lead.
After Stars captain Brenden Morrow responded with six minutes left in the third to make it 3-2, Daniel Sedin passed up a chance at the hat trick to set up his brother for a tap-in on a 3-on-1 to make it 4-2.
“You know what they are going to do and they still do it to you, so it is frustrating,” Morrow said of the Sedins. “They are not physical guys, they’re not bigger or faster or stronger, they just think the game. … It’s pretty frustrating but you’ve got to tip the hat to them once in a while.”
Raycroft, who finished with 33 saves, called the Sedins “the best players in the league.”
Raffi Torres also had a big night for Vancouver (38-13-9), snapping a 23-game goalless drought with a pair as the injury-riddled Canucks (38-13-9) remained atop the NHL standings and opened a six-game home stand on the right note.
James Neal and Morrow replied for free-falling Dallas (31-22-8), which dropped its fourth straight game and fell to 2-9-1 in its past 12.
“We’re getting great efforts from some people like Morrow and (Jamie) Langenbrunner’s been really good,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “We’re not getting enough from some of the others. When you go through tough times you can’t just have four or five guys play hard.”
Vancouver’s offence got the job done Saturday, but the focus heading into the game was on a defence corps that is missing five regulars: Alex Edler (lower back), Keith Ballard (knee), Kevin Bieksa (foot), Dan Hamhuis (concussion) and Keith Ballard (knee).
With rookies Chris Tanev (14th career game), Evan Oberg (fourth career game) and Yann Sauve (third career game) on the blue-line, the Canucks kept things simple and made an effort to spend as much of the game in the Stars’ end as possible.
Dallas is also plagued by injuries, with six regulars out of the lineup, including leading scorer Brad Richards (concussion) and young gun Jamie Benn (shoulder).
The absences showed, as the Stars mustered just 24 shots on Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo.
The loss was costly for Dallas, which remained at 68 points and in a tie with Los Angeles, Anaheim and Calgary for sixth place in the Western Conference. The Kings and Ducks lost Saturday, and the Flames were idle.
The teams were tied 1-1 after a scrambly first period.
After Daniel Sedin’s opening goal, Dallas responded on its first shot of the game 1:50 later as Neal beat a screened Luongo with a glove-side wrist shot following a Sauve giveaway.
Torres, playing his best game in weeks, made it 2-1 for Vancouver midway through the second period with a laser slapshot over Raycroft’s glove.
“I feel like I lost 100 pounds with one shot,” said Torres, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 31. “It’s just squeezing the stick a little too tight, but since the (all-star) break it’s just been focus on trying to get pucks on (net) and don’t make that extra play.
“It’s tough when you see the twins and what they do and they make it look so easy and sometimes you think you got that in your bag, but I got to have a little reality check and just get back to basics.”
Torres made it 5-2 on a 2-on-1 late in the third, converting a Manny Malhotra feed for his 13th of the season.
NOTES: The Canucks killed off a Stars two-man advantage with the tied score 1-1 in the first period, which Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault called the turning point of the game. Vancouver’s top defenders Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo were in the penalty box. … Hamhuis said he could have played Saturday against Dallas, but the Canucks held him out of the lineup as a precaution. He is expected to play Tuesday against Montreal. … The Canucks swept the season series over Dallas for the first time in franchise history, outscoring the Stars 20-5 in four games. … Torres and Morrow fought to a draw early in the first period.