Tort's experiment energizes Canucks
Vancouver rallies: Team takes step in right direction with much-needed win in Philadelphia over Flyers
John Tortorella knows this is a vital seven-game sojourn because he must get to know his players during a demanding 11-day trip without the distractions of the home front. He needs to know what motivational buttons to push and who to pat on the back and who to kick in the butt.
However, one thing the Canucks coach knows for sure - and what he doesn't get enough credit for - is that he's not being afraid to experiment. Tortorella had touted the tandem of Henrik and Daniel Sedin as being the only sure thing heading into his first season behind the Vancouver bench. That didn't last long.
With the Canucks trailing 2-1 heading into the third period Tuesday, the bench boss did what he did in Calgary to rally the club to a 5-4 overtime victory on Oct. 6. Tortorella aligned Henrik as a winger with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins and it paid off in a 3-2 win over the struggling Philadelphia Flyers. The Canucks captain set up Higgins for his first goal of the season from behind the net before starting the sequence that led to Kesler's second goal of the night off a Higgins rebound to end a two-game losing streak.
"We were getting better as the game went on and we didn't open ourselves up and give up a lot of chances," said Tortorella. "We were just a little stale offensively and we had zone time, but not a lot of chances and we just tried to change things. It changes the mindset of the other coach in who you check. They (Sedins) play really well together and it's tough to split them up. That's going to happen and as we go through games and the calls we'll make."
Kesler had already scored a gift first-period goal from a weird bounce off the end boards that froze stranded goalie Steve Mason when he found himself in the right place at the right time for the decisive goal. After killing off a penalty, it was Kesler snapping home the winner with 2:25 left to prove everything that Tortorella has been preaching - a pressure offence and bodies to the net - would eventually pay off.
"You want to establish yourself as a resilient group and you want to establish yourselves below the hash marks and I thought we did that all game," said Kesler, who had a game-high six shots and won 13 of 17 faceoffs. "You can say he (Henrik) is a fun player to play with - he's always looking for you and your job is pretty easy when you play with him. It's get open and get ready to shoot.
"Maybe it was just a change of scenery. You just try to spark something and see if something works. We were getting chances, we just weren't getting goals and that change helped a lot."
As the Canucks continued to search for offence, they sat pointless Zac Dalpe and inserted speedy Jordan Schroeder. After missing nine games with a foot fracture from blocking a shot, he centred David Booth and Zack Kassian, while Brad Richardson dropped down to work between Tom Sestito and Dale Weise. With the Flyers missing Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier to injury and missing any semblance of offence with just 10 goals in their seven games, it should have been the catalyst for more against a club that's off to its worst start in franchise history with one win in seven games. But after Tye McGinn scored twice and Kesler got his first, something had to happen. And when it did, the new line looked like a seamless old line and Higgins looked like he had been playing with the captain all season.
"Teams are going to leave him back there or chase him, it doesn't really matter," said Higgins, who had three shots to bump his total to 24. "You put a 100-point player on any line and you'll get some confidence. You get open and he feathers a saucer pass right to me. We've had some quality zone time the whole year, but haven't really produced anything. We were rewarded today."
The importance of the third-period comeback win - the second of the season - wasn't lost on Henrik. Everybody has been playing the patience card with a new coach and new system, but the prospect of heading to Buffalo on Thursday below .500 wasn't going to sit well with anybody. At 4-3-0 there's something to build on.
"You lose the first one and there's some insecurity creeping in," said the captain. "We needed this badly. It's tough to win when you score just one goal and we knew it was going to come."
Winning 70 per cent of the draws helped. So did falling in front of pucks, like Chris Tanev did when the Flyers had a third-period power play with the game tied 2-2. He finished with four blocked shots.
"Tanev comes out and blocks that shot, but that's all part of it," said Tortorella. "He has picked things up quickly in what we're trying to do. A young guy playing a tough position. We're trying to stay aggressive."
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