VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Ticker)—The top line usually requires multiple goals to lead the Vancouver Canucks to victory. The unit of Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi needed just one on Sunday.
Morrison fired the puck around the boards to help create the game-winner. Bertuzzi gathered it, skated down to left-wing corner and dropped the puck to Naslund behind the net. The Vancouver captain caught goaltender Zac Bierk moving, walked out from behind the net and roofed a backhand high over the netminder 9:22 into the second period.
“I was just waiting for something and things opened up a bit,” Naslund said. “I saw Mo (Morrison) in front and I was looking to get the puck to him. I just wanted to make the goalie move and I caught him looking the other way.”
“He lost me for about a second. Unfortunately, that’s all it takes for a guy like that,” Bierk said. “I actually saw him out of my peripheral (vision). I had covered the lower part of the net. I thought I was in good shape. Not many guys can roof a backhand like that.”
Naslund has three goals and three assists during his five-game points streak and Bertuzzi also has tallied six points during his five-game points streak.
Naslund, Morrison and Bertuzzi regularly fill up the scoresheet for the NHL’s fourth highest scoring team. Combining for 163 points so far this season, they are the highest scoring trio in the league.
Canucks coach Marc Crawford was pleased to see his club make the lone goal stand up.
“Tonight, we were able to win a game in a way we’re not accustomed to,” he said. “We’re a very offensively talent group. It was a different way for us to win. It’s nice to know we can tighten up.”
But Crawford said the story of the game was the goalies.
Skudra made nine of his 20 saves in the third period to record his first shutout since January 26, 2002 at Calgary. The backup netminder whitewashed an opponent for the sixth time in his career.
“It’s nice to have a chance to come out and give us a chance to win,” Skudra said. “Our penalty killers were a big part of our game tonight. We had a lot of penalties and they blocked a lot of shots and allowed me to see the pucks if they got through.”
Bierk made 22 saves. However, the Coyotes failed to convert on seven power-play opportunities and had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“Ironically, it’s probably the best game we played on this three-game (road) trip,” Coyotes coach Bob Francis said. “Sometimes the score does not reflect the way the game went. You have to give Vancouver credit and give Skudra credit, and that goal they scored was by the best goal-scorer in the game and that was the difference.”
Vancouver was relieved simply to record the first goal of the game. The Canucks were unable to accomplish the feat in their previous 11 games, posting a 6-5 mark during the span.
“It’s something we always talk about,” Naslund said. “It took us a period and a half, but we got it and it was the difference tonight.”
Vancouver’s penalty-killing unit also played a major role. The Canucks killed off a 5-on-3 during a 1:56 span in the third, prompting the crowd to chant Skudra’s name.
“It’s been a full house every night,” Skudra said. “It’s been exciting for them to watch. It’s exciting when 18,000 are chanting your name.”
“We killed a lot of penalties,” Canucks right wing Trent Klatt said. “That 5-on-3 was huge. We got a lot of momentum from that kill. The crowd really got into it, as well.”
The Coyotes offense dried up again. After scoring just five goals in six games, Phoenix had outscored its opponents, 15-3, in the previous three games.
“Zac played outstanding for us,” right wing Shane Doan said. “It was definitely disappointing that we couldn’t score for him.”
Bierk has yielded just 10 goals in nine games for Phoenix, but his record slipped to 3-4-1 this season.