Almost one month later, Demitra came back to give Wellwood a perfect pass for a crucial goal against the team that cut him.
Demitra returned after missing 10 games and had three assists, including one on Wellwood’s goal minutes after the Canucks killed off an early 5-on-3, sparking the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
“I was excited about this game, it was like four weeks with my injury and to finally be on the ice there was extra jump there,” said Demitra, who also set up goals by Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin. “The last couple of days I feel great, my legs feel good and I just transferred it into the game.”
After Roberto Luongo backstopped the Canucks through the early penalty problems, Wellwood opened the scoring on Vancouver’s first shot by roofing Demitra’s pass out of the corner over former Toronto teammate Vesa Toskala from in tight.
“We were able to kill (the 5-on-3) off and score right after so that was a big moment in the game for us,” said Luongo, who finished with 28 saves.
Demitra’s rib injury Oct. 19 rescued Wellwood, cut by the Maple Leafs, from a demotion to the minor leagues.
Wellwood even fought off good friend Matt Stajan while driving to the net.
“This was a game I was trying to get guys hyped up for in the dressing room,” Wellwood said. “That was definitely a nice goal to get. I went out to eat last night with Stajan and to get one off him was pretty comical.”
Wellwood was picked up by the Canucks off waivers over the summer, and cleared waivers twice more before getting his latest chance to replace Demitra centering the second line. With seven goals in 11 games since, Wellwood has played well enough to keep the job, so Demitra shifted over to the left wing in his return.
They combined again to set up the second goal on a power play late in the first.
A nifty play by Wellwood and Demitra to gain the offensive zone left defenseman Mattias Ohlund all alone to blast away from the top of the faceoff circle, and Kesler was wide open to tap the rebound past a helpless Toskala.
“(Wellwood) showed he can play and obviously he’s an unbelievably patient guy and has great touch,” Demitra said. “Playing with a guy like that you don t even need to practice. He’s very skilled, very smart on the ice and reads the play.
Willie Mitchell added his first goal of the season to help the Canucks wrap up a six-game homestand with a 4-1-1 record.
Maple Leafs defenseman Ian White scored with 5:07 left to end Luongo’s bid for a fourth shutout in five games. It was the first even-strength goal in six games against Luongo, whose franchise-record shutout streak ended at 242 minutes, 36 seconds on a power-play goal Thursday night in a 2-1 shootout loss to Colorado.
Stajan added a power-play goal with 2:30 left for the Maple Leafs, who wrapped up a three-game trip through Western Canada 1-2-0.
Despite getting beat twice late, Luongo was the difference early, especially after top defenseman Kevin Bieksa was diagnosed with a broken foot on Thursday and Alexander Edler was a surprise scratch with the flu Saturday.
The Canucks were outshot 13-6 in the first period, but led 2-0 thanks to some strong early penalty killing backstopped by Luongo. With Toronto on a 5-on-3 for 1:57, Luongo kicked out a pair of Pavel Kubina’s blasts and, after having the stick knocked out of his hands by Nik Antropov, stuffed Antropov and Stajan from inside the right faceoff circle, stopping all five shots on the advantage.
Toronto’s power play came into the game ranked third in the NHL and scored seven times in 16 chances over the previous three games, but was 0-for-7 before White pinched in from the point to convert their eighth advantage.
“You get a 5-on-3, you can t will it in,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “It was huge. He made a couple of saves and we didn’t effectively move the puck around. I’m looking up and the shots are 11-0 and their first shot goes in it’s kind of depressing. We just didn’t pepper him enough until later in the game.”
After Mitchell made it 3-0 on Vancouver’s first shot of the second period, Sedin scored on a one-touch shot from the slot 5 minutes later—a play started by a Demitra pass from behind the net—to end Toskala’s night after four goals on just nine shots. Curtis Joseph replaced him, but only faced six shots.
Vancouver wore new third jerseys, featuring a stick-in-rink design on the chest and a new shoulder patch with the letter “V” and the head of the old Johnny Canuck character, for the first time. … Toronto returns home for a three-game home stand starting Monday against Boston. … The Canucks start a four-game trip against the New York Islanders on Monday night.