From left, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate a goal against the Dallas Stars Thursday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The Canucks won the game 4-3.
Photograph by: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images, Vancouver Sun
DALLAS -- The defence most certainly did not rest Thursday for the Vancouver Canucks — it went on the offensive.
The Canucks got goals from defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison and Alex Burrows tipped in a shot by another defenceman, Alex Edler, as Vancouver snapped a three-game National Hockey League losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.
It was a bounce-back game that the Canucks’ defence sorely needed after being exposed by the Chicago Blackhawks two nights earlier.
“We pride ourselves on being really good defensively and we obviously gave up way too many chances against Chicago,” Bieksa said. “We looked at the film, we watched all the breakdowns and I thought we were a lot better tonight.”
But it was on offence where the Canuck defencemen really made their mark Thursday. When the Canucks are at their best, their defence is chipping in consistently on offence. Thursday’s game served as a perfect example of just that.
“You need that,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “If you are going to score more than a couple of goals a game, it’s going to come on some nights from your third and fourth line and on some other nights it’s going to come from your back end. And tonight we got a big goal from Kevin, a couple of good shots from Jason that led to a goal and you need that if you expect to score more than a couple of goals in such a tough league.”
“I’ve said it before,” added Bieksa. “When we are getting goals and contributions from our defencemen we are a tough team to beat. We have got a lot of skill up front and when we chip in back there it takes some pressure off them and they can play their game.”
The Canucks won it with two quick goals early in the third period. Garrison scored his second of the season at the 2:32 mark when he beat Dallas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp from the left point to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead. Less than two minutes later, captain Henrik Sedin finished off a two-on-one rush with Burrows to put the Canucks up by two goals.
This time they hung on to the lead. But just barely.
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow stripped the puck off Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler at the edge of the crease and scored to make it 4-3 at 6:07 of the third. The Canucks had to weather some anxious moments down the stretch.
The win was a payback of sorts for the Canucks. Last Friday, the Stars came from two goals down and beat Vancouver 4-3 at Rogers Arena.
“It was nice to sort of return the favour and come back a couple of times against them in their building,” said Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, who faced 25 Dallas shots.
The game could not have started any worse for the Canucks. They had a horrible shift to open the contest and paid for it. Victoria native Jamie Benn gave Dallas a 1-0 lead 35 seconds into the game, beating Schneider short side from a sharp angle.
“I am really happy with the way we responded,” Vigneault said. “They came out on that first shift and capitalized on a couple of our puck decisions and made it 1-0 early. But we were able to stick to the plan and after two periods we had a tie game.”
Burrows made it 1-1 at 8:29 of the first when he tipped home Edler’s shot on a Vancouver power play. But the Canucks had to chase from behind again in the second when Michael Ryder beat Schneider with a backhand at the 2:39 mark.
Bieksa tied it five minutes later during four-on-four play when he blew by Stars’ defenceman Philip Larsen and put a backhand shot through Nilstorp’s legs.
“It was four-on-four, so you are looking for puck possession,” he said. “We won the draw and Dan (Hamhuis) made a good move to beat the first guy so I just tried to get open for him. He hit me with a great pass and I put one on net.”
After Tuesday’s debacle in Chicago, Vigneault shook up all three of his defensive pairings Thursday. Bieksa was reunited with Hamhuis, Edler was paired with Chris Tanev and Garrison joined Keith Ballard.
Garrison’s goal seemed to turn the game in Vancouver’s favour.
“One of their wingers went down and I had a great screen in front by (Chris) Higgins and fortunately I found the back of the net,” Garrison said.
He acknowledged that there was some soul-searching by the Canuck defence after Tuesday’s shootout loss in Chicago.
“In general, we needed to be better, for sure,” he said. “We had a good meeting and guys knew that we needed to bounce back with a better defensive game and be more complete.”
“I think it was more of a complete effort from us for sure tonight,” added Bieksa. “I don’t know what else to say. It wasn’t the prettiest game at times, but it was a hard-fought game, a lot of board battles, a lot of blocked shots, a lot of diving plays and a lot of big saves.”
And some redemption of sorts for a beleaguered Vancouver defence corps.
ICE CHIPS: With Jannik Hansen serving his one-game suspension, Aaron Volpatti returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Tuesday in Chicago ... Zack Kassian and Roussel tangled in a spirited second-period scrap. Both players landed several hard punches ... Attendance was 17,393 ... The Canucks chartered post-game to Nashville, where they meet the Predators on Friday night. Vancouver completes its four-game road trip Sunday afternoon (2 p.m., Sportsnet) in Detroit.
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