Vrbata helps Canucks beat Jets 5-2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Radim Vrbata was signed to give the Vancouver Canucks some much-needed offense, and that's exactly what he's done as the team makes its push for a return to the playoffs.
Vrbata had two goals and an assist Tuesday night in leading Vancouver to a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canucks had already erased a 2-0 deficit when Vrbata grabbed a loose puck off the sideboards and scored the tiebreaker, outwaiting Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson with a minute left in the second period.
''He's just kind of an assassin,'' said teammate Chris Higgins, who had a goal and an assist. ''It's pretty incredible watching him around the net - so much poise and patience. He's very aware of how much time he has.''
Vrbata added a late goal into an empty net for his team-high 29th of the season. He has three goals and four assists in his last three games.
''I think you go by your instincts,'' Vrbata said of the game-winner. ''If you overthink it then you might get in trouble.''
Henrik Sedin had an empty-net goal of his own and two assists for the Canucks, who have won three in a row. Yannick Weber also scored, and Eddie Lack made 26 saves.
Vancouver (43-26-4), which also got two assists from Daniel Sedin, is second in the Pacific Division, four points up on Calgary.
Winnipeg had won five in a row. Jiri Tlusty and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets, and Hutchinson stopped 25 shots.
''We gave what we had,'' Jets coach Paul Maurice said after his team's second game in two nights. ''We were probably better than I thought we were going to be able to through the first 30 minutes of that hockey game and didn't win. That fight for our guys has always been there.''
Vancouver needed a scoring boost after finishing tied for the NHL's second-worst offense while missing the playoffs last season. Vrbata has been everything the club could have hoped for after signing for two years back in July.
''A lot of nights you don't really see him out there,'' Henrik Sedin said. ''But once he gets the puck on his stick you see the first couple strides and there's no chance of catching him.''
The Jets (38-24-12) are in control of the second wild card in the Western Conference. They are three points back of Minnesota and two ahead of Los Angeles, which has a game in hand.
Coming off a weekend road sweep of the Kings and Coyotes, the Canucks trailed 2-0 early in the second after Wheeler got his 23rd goal of the season at 5:07 following a dominant shift.
''At 2-0 I was feeling a little down, but we stuck with it, kept battling,'' Lack said. ''There's something about this team. We just keep going and keep going and we find ways of coming back.''
Vancouver then rallied midway through the period, scoring three times in a span of 8:03 to grab the lead.
Higgins got his 10th goal on a shot that squeezed past Hutchinson at 10:57 before Weber tied it at 16:29 on the power play, converting a one-timer for his eighth of the season.
The Canucks completed the turnaround with a minute left in the period when Henrik Sedin chipped the puck down the side to Vrbata, who beat Hutchinson for his 28th goal.
''Everybody knows how important this game was,'' Vrbata said. ''Even though we were down 2-0 we didn't give up and were able to turn it around.''
Hutchinson kept Winnipeg in the game with a breakaway save on Bo Horvat with 11 minutes to go in the third, but Lack made two big saves on Michael Frolik and another on Mark Scheifele before Henrik Sedin and Vrbata each scored into an empty net.
Still without center Bryan Little and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien because of injury, the Jets grabbed a 1-0 lead at 2:17 of the first when Tlusty scored his first goal in a Winnipeg uniform.
Eric O'Dell jumped on a turnover and fed Tlusty for his 14th of the season and first in 12 games since coming over in a deal with Carolina before the trade deadline.
The Canucks had a couple of prime chances to even the score, but Hutchinson made a great rebound save on Nick Bonino before getting a piece of Dan Hamhuis' one-timer later in the period in his first start since March 12.
NOTES: Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $22.25 million. ... The Jets open a four-game homestand Thursday against Montreal. The Canucks continue their three-game homestand the same night against Colorado.