Ryan Kesler scores twice to lead Vancouver to 4-1 win over Detroit

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

VANCOUVER - Offence springs from good defence and nobody buys into that more than Ryan Kesler or the Vancouver Canucks.

Kesler, who has embraced his new role as a defensive forward, scored twice on breakaways Saturday night to lead the Canucks to a 4-1 victory over the injury-depleted Detroit Red Wings.

That gives the Canucks their first four-game winning streak of the season.

"I know my first job is to be defensive but it's always nice to get the offensive players worrying a little more about defence than their offence," the lanky Kesler said after scoring his career-high 16th goal.

"So when you can chip in a couple like tonight it always seems to put their (top) line back on their heels."

Kesler, who's been known to chirp at the opposition from time to time, was teamed with Brad Isbister and agitator Alex Burrows against the Wings' first line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

Datsyuk got the only Detroit goal on a power play but his line was twice burned at even strength by Kesler.

"What can you say about Burrows and Izzy," said the 23-year-old Kesler, a six-foot-two, 205-pound centre from Livonia Mich., who has scored three goals in his last five games.

"Nobody can knock them off the puck. It's fun playing with those guys right now."

Kesler used his speed to create and corral loose pucks at the Vancouver blue-line then swoop into the Detroit zone. He beat rookie netminder Jimmy Howard between the legs both times.

"It worked the first time, might as well try it the second time," Kesler said.

Alex Edler - with his seventh goal of the season and fourth in five games - and Sami Salo on a power play staked the Canucks to a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

The victory enabled Vancouver (32-22-8) to climb into a four-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference and move to within a point of the Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild.

The Wings, who are hurting most on the blue-line, lost for the eighth time in nine games and slipped to 42-17-5 but still have a six-point lead atop the conference.

Veteran defenceman Chris Chelios, 46, was the injury-riddled team's latest casualty. He left Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Flames in Calgary after taking a shot off his leg.

Also missing from the Detroit defence corps were Nicklas Lidstrom (knee), Niklas Kronwall (collarbone) and Brian Rafalski (groin).

Forward Dan Cleary remained on the shelf with a broken jaw and goalie Dominik Hasek missed a sixth game with an inflamed hip flexor.

The Canucks threatened to hand the game to the Wings by taking undisciplined penalties but goaltender Roberto Luongo had a solid 28-save effort. He was sharp when Detroit had a 61-second two-man advantage and was helped by a crossbar in the third period.

"We took a lot of bad penalties but that 5-on-3 really gave us a push after that," said Burrows. "We got a power-play goal and that turned the tide."

Luongo said simple hard work paid off for the Canucks.

"We're feeling good about ourselves, about our game right now," he said.

Detroit defenceman Derek Meech, who almost had his first NHL goal until Datsyuk tipped the puck past Luongo, said new faces in the lineup are making it difficult to play in the defensive zone.

"We didn't communicate well enough," said Meech. "We wasted too much energy trying to make plays coming out of our zone.

"We have some younger (defencemen) in our lineup and we have to know we can trust each other."

Coach Mike Babcock said his club missed several chances with the two-man advantage.

"Just by playing (Friday) night and being a little depleted, we didn't have the kind of energy to push so the third goal was just the nail in the coffin," he said.

The goal-starved Wings, who were 1-for-7 with the man advantage, have scored only 15 times in their last night games. Datsyuk's goal ended a drought of 106 minutes 56 seconds.

"We'd like to score more," Babcock said. "We're not as smooth on the back end right now. That really affects your power play too."

Notes - Detroit's Aaron Downey prodded Burrows with his stick, touching off a general melee early in the pre-game warm-up. Both clubs came together on their respective sides of the centre red line. No officials were on the ice ... Markus Naslund (groin) and Mattias Ohlund (flu) missed practice Friday but were in the Vancouver lineup ... Injured Canuck defenceman Aaron Miller, out nine games with a hairline foot fracture, is close to resuming skating ... Vancouver centre Brendan Morrison (wrist surgery) could be back by mid-March ... Detroit won the previous three meetings between the clubs, all by 3-2 counts.



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