If there is a hotter line playing right now in the NHL, we’d like to know who or where they are.
In a game where Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin looked like he might put his stamp on it early, the Canucks’ line of the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler simply had too much magic for the visitors in a 3-2 win.
Ovechkin — who’s right back to his Hart Trophy-winning level of last season — generated some electric action right off the bat, turning Alex Edler into a turnstile just inside the blueline, and then forcing the Canucks defenceman to pull him down to save a breakaway just 1:19 into the game. Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot, but Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo denied his five-hole attempt with a pad stop.
From there, the Canucks outshot (41-19 overall) and out-chanced the Caps, but still found themselves down 2-1 at the 1:52 mark of the third period, when Mikhail Grabovski beat Luongo glove side.
The Canucks’ power play continued to play close but no cigar (0-6), but it didn’t matter the way the Sedins and Kesler were playing even-strength.
Kesler replied at 2:53 of the third directly after Grabovski’s goal, scooping a puck into the open side after Ryan Stanton’s point shot hit Daniel Sedin in front.
But that was just a teaser for the winning goal, scored on a mammoth possession shift in the Caps’ end — first line against first line. It ended with Daniel wiring a rare slapshot just under the cross-bar at 5:01 as Kesler screened goalie Michal Neuvirth.
The line has been together since the midway point of the Philly game, eight games ago, but its dominance five on five was something to see. Collectively, they have 12 goals and 27 points over that span.
“It was something special,” said Canucks winger Chris Higgins, who’s seen his share of top lines in the league. “It kind of built up through the game, how well they were playing. That one shift (on the winning goal) was one of the best shifts I’ve ever seen them play, and I’ve seen a lot of great shifts from them. You become a fan just sitting on the bench.”
Daniel Sedin said the addition of Kesler to their unit has added options to their game. His screen certainly created the winning goal.
“Kes has been great,” said Daniel. “He’s strong down low and he shoots the puck, too, which opens up things. It’s fun. We didn’t create a lot of chances early on but we stayed with it and got better as the game went on.”
The power play was ranked 25th overall coming in and continues to slump, despite getting good zone time and some good looks with the puck.
“We’re close, there was one that was stopped on the goal line and there were a couple that were inches away from getting a rebound chance and burying one,” said Kesler. “The chances are there and we’re getting momentum. The goals will come.”
Luongo didn’t get a lot of work, but had to make a key stop on a Martin Erat deflection on a late power play.
INJURY UPDATE: Canucks coach John Tortorella offered a rare injury update on Monday at the team’s morning skate. The news was as bad as expected. Torts said centre Jordan Schroeder (ankle) will be out two months and will have a pin inserted. As well, wingers Jannik Hansen (upper body) and Dale Weise (leg) will be out three to four weeks, while winger David Booth (undisclosed) will miss another week or two.
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