Canucks finally get elusive pre-season win as six players score in a 6-1 rout over Phoenix Coyotes
Vancouver visits San Jose on Tuesday for a skate with the Sharks
After a couple of days filled with bad news, something good finally happened for the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
They won a game — it’s been a while.
The Canucks hadn’t won since April 22. They dropped their final two games of the regular season, were swept in the playoffs and had opened the pre-season with three straight losses.
So Monday’s 6-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at Rogers Arena was welcome.
Coach John Tortorella clearly thought it was time for his team to taste victory. The Canucks were the only National Hockey League team without one heading into Monday’s action and Tortorella dressed a veteran-laden lineup.
They had to do some last-minute juggling to the roster when wingers Zack Kassian and Dale Weise were handed suspensions for separate incidents in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Edmonton.
Jannik Hansen moved up to replace Kassian on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. And rookies Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce, who were originally not scheduled to play, skated much of the night on the fourth line with Tom Sestito.
There were several encouraging signs from a Canuck perspective.
Roberto Luongo went the distance in goal and played well. Hansen looked right at home playing alongside the Sedins and chipped in with a power-play goal. Chris Higgins, promoted to the second line, scored his first goal of the pre-season. Defenceman Yannick Weber scored on a blast from the right point, forward Mike Santorelli continued to impress and scored another goal. Horvat had two assists and played his best game of the pre-season.
“I thought we chased pucks down, I thought our defencemen were up the ice and pinched really well and we just had an aggressive attitude towards the game,” Tortorella said.
“That was a great team game,” Luongo said. “I thought we played really well right off the start with a good first period and stayed on top of them the whole game.”
The first period was Vancouver’s best of the pre-season. They outshot the Coyotes 17-8 and grabbed a 2-0 lead.
Higgins opened scoring at 16:29 of the first when he scored off a faceoff scramble in the left faceoff circle. Hansen made it 2-0 two minutes later, banging in a rebound off a Kevin Bieksa shot as he was falling to the ice.
With Kassian gone the first five games of the regular season, Hansen could get a longer look with the twins.
“It obviously helped that I played with them before,” Hansen said. “You don’t have the nervousness out there, I know my role when I am playing with them. It’s fairly simple, it’s driving, it’s getting to the puck and going to the net.”
Martin Hanzal, on a Phoenix power play, cut Vancouver’s lead in half at 1:34 of the second when he redirected a David Rundblad pass past Luongo.
But Weber, celebrating his 25th birthday, restored Vancouver’s two-goal lead at the 11-minute mark of the second after teeing up a pass from behind the net from Alex Burrows and putting a high shot past Phoenix goalie Thomas Greiss.
Santorelli scored his second goal of the pre-season at 5:22 of the third, backhanding a Horvat rebound past Greiss.
“Santorelli has played well from Day 1,” Tortorella said. “He is making a pretty good case for himself.”
Horvat set up a rare goal by Sestito at 11:08 of the third.
“It was nice to get that monkey off my back if you want to say that,” Horvat said of his two-point performance. “I couldn’t have done it without my linemates. They played well in front of me. All I had to do was find the open holes and hit them.”
Horvat was also an impressive 8-for-10 in the faceoff circle.
Defenceman Jason Garrison made it 6-1 at 14:24 of the third when he ripped a slap shot past Greiss.
After a shaky performance in last week’s pre-season opener, Luongo was solid Monday.
He made big first-period saves off Oliver Eckman-Larsson and Mikkel Boedker and in the second stopped rookie Max Domi, who tested him with a wrist shot after being sent in alone.
“It felt good,” Luongo said. “Like I said before camp even started, I am not worried about results right now, it’s more of a process. It felt pretty good out there and I just want to keep building and make sure I improve every day and am ready to go next week.”
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks travel to San Jose to meet the Sharks Tuesday night. Eddie Lack is expected to start in goal ... Vancouver closes out the pre-season Thursday at home against Alain Vigneault and the New York Rangers ... Goalie Joe Cannata, winger Benn Ferriero and defencemen Patrick Mullen and Yann Sauve were reassigned to the Utica Comets on Monday. The Comets open their training camp on Wednesday.
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Chris Higgins of the Vancouver Canucks fights for control of the puck with Phoenix Coyotes' centre Kyle Chipchura during the second period of Monday's National Hockey League pre-season game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press