Radim Vrbata’s hat trick led the Vancouver Canucks to an easy 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night at the Rogers Center.
On a night when Vancouver honored the 2002-2006 high-scoring West Coast Express line, the Canucks snapped a five game losing streak. The trio of Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, who compiled 924 points in a total of 995 games, gave a motivational talk in the Canuck locker room after the pre-game skate.
The Sabres have dropped seven of their last eight matches in Vancouver.
Buffalo got off to a 1-0 lead when Brian Gionta swatted the puck out of mid air, parallel with the crossbar, to net his third of the season at the 6:48 mark. The goal gave Gionta 11 points in 15 career games against the Canucks. The assist extended McGinn’s point streak to six games, a career high.
Two short shifts later, the Canucks tied the score. A scramble for the loose puck found Radim Vrbata looking at a wide open net to Ullmark’s left. His wrist shot netted his seventh of the season, assisted by Chris Higgins and Ben Hutton.
With 3:18 left in the first, Radim Vrbata notched his second of the game, giving the host team a 2-1 advantage. He tipped a Daniel Hamhuis shot from the point, beating a poorly covering Josh Gorges. The redirected puck changed direction just in front of a handcuffed Ullmark who couldn’t stop the puck from going in over his glove. Daniel Sedin had the secondary assist.
Henrik Sedin extended lead to three at 17:18 of the second period. One second after Deslauriers went to the box for interference, Alexandre Burrows got a double minor for taking Gorges down with a high-stick that drew blood.
After a couple penalties that gave Vancouver a power play, Henrik Sedin notched his 9th of the season. Henrik had parked himself directly in front of Ullmark where he deflected a shot from his twin, Daniel.
Through two periods, although tied for shots at 21 each, the Canucks led the Sabres in attempted shots by a 2-1 margin. Buffalo’s five penalties contributed to a lot of poor defensive zone coverage and continued difficulty in clearing the defensive zone. Without strong play from Ullmark, the score would have been more lopsided.
The Sabres pulled to within two on Sam Reinhart’s 8th of the year at the 1:51 mark of the third period. Positioned at the top of the crease, Reinhart took an O’Reilly pass from behind the net and snapped it into the top corner. O’Reilly logged the only assist which extended his current point streak to five games (2 goals, 4 assists).
Radim Vrbata’s hat trick goal at 14:28 of the third period put the game out of reach at 5-2. Alone at Ullmark’s left, just below the faceoff circle, Vrbata took a pass from Cracknell, moved pieces of a broken stick, and then wristed the puck into the short side.
The Sabres have 25 points through 28 games this season, a meager three point improvement over last year’s 22 points. They will try to add to that total on the third and final game of this west coast road trip on Thursday in Calgary.