Kesler leads Canucks past Bruins in feisty affair

Gordon McIntyre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks matched the NHL's longest win streak of the season Saturday night at the Rogers Arena, beating Boston 6-2 on the same ice surface the Bruins won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2011.
The bitter rivalry that developed over that championship series continued unabated Saturday.
The score was deceiving; the play was a lot more even that the outcome and Boston was the better team for much of the game.
And Canucks center Ryan Kesler, hobbled by injuries ever since that 2011 finals, appears to be back to the form that earned him the 2010-11 Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward and who practically carried the Canucks on his shoulder during that postseason until injuries got in the way by the time the final series began.
"Kes is a horse for us right now," Canucks coach John Tortorella said. "From the beginning of the year he's done everything we've asked.
"And he's still growing (as a player), there is more there and he knows there's more there."
Kesler got the crowd and his teammates into the game early in the opening period, dropping the gloves with Boston power forward Jarome Iginla.
Kesler, not particularly known for his fists, landed several solid punches and Iginla left the game until the second period had begun with what looked like a dislocated finger.
The Canucks center kept it up once his fighting major was served.
Kesler drove Bruins 6-foot-9 captain Zdeno Chara to distraction, got under Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask's skin and had an ongoing pest-a-thon with Boston left winger Brad Marchand.
Marchand, not to be outdone once the game was out of reach for Boston, drove the crowd crazy by lifting an imaginary Stanley Cup over his head and taking off his glove to kiss his ring finger.
Kesler called it classless.
"I did it after he eye-gouged me," Marchand said.
The victory marked the first time in franchise history the Canucks opened December 7-0-0.
That the Canucks have pieced together seven straight wins is noteworthy enough, but they are doing it with little contribution from the Sedin twins, their leading offensive players for years.
Captain Henrik Sedin scored Saturday in a third period that was basically all garbage time, but he and his brother Daniel have combined for just three of the Canucks' 24 goals during the streak.
It is Kesler and whoever lines up on his wings that are leading the charge.
"It is such a luxury to be able to play him on the wing, at center, killing penalties, on the power play," Tortorella said.
"The fans, you could tell how intense they are from the Stanley Cup final and they showed it again tonight," Marchand said of the chorus of boos that erupted each time he touched the puck.
Boston held the edge in play but the Canucks jumped ahead 1-0 late in the first on a slap shot from center ice by right winger Jannik Hansen, the puck deflecting off the shaft of Chara's stick, then skipping between the legs of Rask.
"Now I know how the baseball players feel when they get a knuckle ball," Rask said.
Right winger Reilly Smith pulled the Bruins even at 4:11 of the second, at which Tortorella called a timeout to rant at his club, which was being outshot 5-1 to that point in the period.
"We weren't playing well," Tortorella said.
What words did he have for his players?
"None of your business," the coach said.
A minute and a half after Tortorella's tirade, left winger David Booth streaked down the wing and beat Rask with a laser of a wrist shot to the glove side.
A little more than three minutes later, left winger Chris Higgins took advantage of a huge effort from right winger Mike Santorelli to bang in a rebound off the post to make it 3-1 at 5:31 of the second.
Defenseman Yannick Weber, making his second straight start after a 10-game stint in the minors, made it 4-1 1:34 into the third period with a hard shot from the point that chased Rask from the Boston goal.
"The first goal was lucky, but you can't let in four goals on 23 shots," Rask said. "I was not able to help the guys too much."
NOTES: The Bruins had a four-game winning streak heading into Saturday's game, the Canucks a six-game winning streak. ... The Canucks 6-0-0 start to December was the best for the month in franchise history. The last team to win their first six games in December was the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. Philly won seven, then lost 6-0 to Boston. ... The Canucks penalty kill continues to be the league's stingiest, with a success rate of 89.9 per cent. ... The Bruins came into the game having had only 86 power plays, fewest in the NHL this season. ... Vancouver C Ryan Kesler and Boston RW Jarome Iginla fought once before Saturday night's bout, Feb. 3, 2006, at Calgary when Iginla was the Flames captain.

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