VANCOUVER – Pierre-Marc Bouchard has played well against the Vancouver Canucks all season, but he brought his game to a new level Monday night.
Bouchard scored two goals and added two assists as the Minnesota Wild doubled the Canucks 4-2. Brian Rolston and Mikko Koivu also scored for Minnesota as the Wild (27-18-3) moved into sole possession of first place in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division. Bouchard now has seven points in four games against the Canucks this season, and 19 points in 26 games overall.
“If you’re skating and your line is ready to play and support each other, you’ll get some chances and tonight they went in,” said Bouchard.
Alex Burrows and Taylor Pyatt, at 19:31 of the third period, replied for the struggling Canucks (25-19-5), who are on a four-game winless streak.
Vancouver lost despite ourtshooting the Wild 40-26. Minnesota was scoreless on five power play opportunities while the Canucks went zero-for-three with the man-advantage.
The Canucks failed to overcome a 2-1 second-period deficit. They are now winless in all 18 games in which they have trailed after 40 minutes.
“Even though we came back and scored, it makes a difference when we score the first goal if you look at our wins and losses,” said Vancouver defenceman Mattias Ohlund. “We have to find a way to play better for 60 minutes.”
The Wild won for the third straight time away from home, but for just the second time in eight road games against Northwest Division foes.
“The confidence is high,” said Bouchard about his team’s road play. “The guys are working, they’re skating and we’re following our game plan. That’s why we’re having success.”
Bouchard secured the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute only seven seconds after Pyatt scored to cut Vancouver’s deficit to 3-2 and create some late tension.
“(Bouchard) was playing real well,” said Vancouver defenceman Mattias Ohlund, who logged a game-high 26:13 of ice time. “They have a lot of firepower with (Marian) Gaborik and (Pavol) Demitra and everybody, and tonight he was the one that was really going.”
It was Vancouver’s first meeting with Minnesota at GM Place since Nov. 16, when Ohlund received a four-game suspension for slashing Koivu across the back of the leg. Koivu suffered a broken leg and missed 24 games.
Koivu reaped revenge of sorts as his goal with 4:25 left in the game, which gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead, proved to be the winner.
“It felt good,” said Koivu of scoring the winning goal after the November incident. “Mostly, the win, I think that’s more important.”
Vancouver outshot Minnesota 17-6 in the scoreless opening 20 minutes but was forced to play catch-up in the middle frame.
After Rolston opened the scoring at 9:45 of the second period on a Bouchard rebound, Burrows tied the game 40 seconds later as he beat Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom on a wraparound for his fifth goal of the season. It was the winger’s first goal since Dec. 6.
Bouchard gave the Wild a 2-1 lead about two minutes later after converting a quick turnover in the Minnesota end. Minnesota defenceman Brent Burns appeared to high-stick Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler in the face just inside the blue-line and Minnesota rearguard Keith Carney quickly sent the puck up ice to Bouchard who beat Luongo with a shot from left wing.
“It was a big hit from our D and I think (the Canucks) were changing,” said Bouchard. “They stopped playing maybe a little bit. I had a semi-breakaway from a nice pass from Carney. I faked the shot and I tried to go five-hole.”
Kesler said there should have been a penalty on the play.
“He 1/8Burns 3/8 just had his stick up on me and caught me in the face, and the next thing you know the puck’s in the back of the net. The league is trying to protect against hits to the head and that was a hit to the head. So I don’t understand why they didn’t call it.”
Burns offered a different version of what happened. He said Kesler saw him at the last minute and got out of the way.
“I didn’t even hit him,” said Burns. “Everybody was yelling for a penalty, but I didn’t even make contact.”
NOTES-Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell missed his second straight game because of a sore back while centre Kris Beech, a recent waiver wire pickup from Columbus, was scratched for the second time in the past three games . . . Defenceman Aaron Miller is the only Canuck rearguard who has suited up in all 49 of his club’s games . . . Minnesota winger Todd Fedoruk, once known for his fighting prowess, doesn’t chase tough guys anymore. Fedoruk, who assisted on Koivu’s goal, has toned down his act since, while playing for Anaheim, he had his face rearranged by current teammate Derek Boogard in October 2006. Fedoruk underwent surgery and had several pieces of metal inserted in his face. After Monday’s game, Fedoruk has only two fights in 24 games with the Wild . . . Boogard has not scored in 104 consecutive contests, although he had one disallowed recently because of an offside call that replays indicated was incorrect.