VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Ticker)—The Vancouver Canucks already are the hottest team in the NHL. Now Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi are making their pitch as the league’s hottest line.
Naslund set a career high with six points and Morrison and Bertuzzi each collected two goals and two assists as the Canucks extended their team-record unbeaten streak to 14 games with an 8-0 rout of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Two nights after he combined with his linemates for 12 points, Naslund amassed a goal and five assists. He tied Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux for the NHL scoring lead with 83 points and helped Vancouver register its most lopsided victory since defeating St. Louis by the same score on December 15, 1996.
“They’ve been dominant, not only with their point total,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. “They just know where each other is on the ice. It makes for an interesting night when they’re making plays like that. It’s a thing of beauty.”
Naslund thinks he, Bertuzzi and Morrison can get better.
“No, I’m serious,” he said. “We’ve been giving up too many chances. It’s fun to get seven or eight, but we didn’t exactly play the best teams in the last two games.”
Trevor Linden did his part to balance the scoring with two goals and an assist as the Canucks extended their home unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2). They are 10-0-4 overall since a 5-2 loss to Detroit on January 24.
Dan Cloutier stopped 23 shots for his second shutout of the season and first since a season-opening 3-0 win at Calgary.
“It’s nice to finally get one,” Cloutier said. “I’ve been close a couple of times this year, and anytime your team scores eight times, you’ve got to be happy.”
It was a different story for Frederic Cassivi, who went the distance for Atlanta. The Thrashers have just one win in their last eight games (1-5-2).
“He was not struggling. He was beat by some great shots tonight,” Atlanta coach Bob Harltey said of his goaltender. “They were scoring some good goals. It was not Frederic Cassivi’s fault at all.”
“It’s a disappointing game,” added Cassivi, who was pressed into service following injuries to Byron Dafoe and Pasi Nurminen. “We were doing well early on, but they just broke it open with that 5-on-3.”
Morrison’s goal gave Vancouver the lead at 4:02 of the first period and the Canucks went on a two-man advantage when Per Svartvadet and defenseman Uwe Krupp took simultaneous penalties at the eight-minute mark.
Just 50 seconds later, Linden put in a rebound. With 44 seconds left on the second penalty, Bertuzzi shoved defenseman Yannick Tremblay to create some space in front of the net and redirected Morrison’s centering pass.
Vancouver scored in a 3:15 span late in the second period to break it open.
On another power play, Morrison got a crisp cross-ice pass from Naslund and wristed a shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle past Cassivi for his 19th goal.
Linden made it 5-0 at 16:57 on a one-timer from the left circle and Naslund got his league-leading 41st goal 87 seconds later when his wrister from the blue line made it through traffic.
Bertuzzi and Henrik Sedin finished off the rout with third-period goals.
“It didn’t feel like an 8-0 game,” Atlanta All-Star Dany Heatley said. “They’re a hot team right now and they have a lot of confidence. They capitalized on our errors.”
“Each and every guy knows they have a certain level of play to maintain, and they’re doing it,” Linden said. “We take pride in coming out and trying to win night in and night out.”