A little motivation can turn Alexandre Burrows into an awfully dangerous hockey player.
The Vancouver Canucks winger scored a key goal and set up linemate Daniel Sedin for another Saturday as the Canucks wrapped up their road trip in style with a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Burrows is a Montreal native who makes no bones about his dislike of the Leafs, a team he's dominated during his NHL career. The agitator has 13 points in nine career games against Toronto — all of them Vancouver victories.
"Ever since I came here, I came in the league, the Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid," said Burrows. "For some reason it feels good to play here -- it's a great building, the fans are great, it's nice to play. I know a lot of fans in Vancouver don't like this team.
Leafs' Bozak can't be overlooked
Tyler Bozak knows he's not the main guy on the Toronto Maple Leafs' top line.
When both of your linemates are top-four in NHL scoring, it's easy to get looked over.
But even as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul continue to keep up with the scoring leaders in the NHL, their centre is quietly putting together an impressive bounce-back season.
Bozak had a goal and two assists in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. It was his sixth multi-point game of the season, giving him seven goals and 22 points.
He started the season slow with no goals and just five points in his first 13 games, but has 17 points in his 17 games since. That puts him on pace for 60 after posting just 32 points in all 82 games in 2010-11.
The change from last season to this year comes down to two things for the Regina native.
"A lot of it has to do with the guys I'm playing with and just confidence," Bozak said. "Last year, from the start of the year to the end of the year, I lacked a lot of confidence."
When the Leafs signed Tim Connolly in the off-season, that confidence could've taken a hit with the expectation Connolly would centre Kessel and Lupul on the first line. But early season injuries to the free agent pivot left the door open for Bozak to once again take the reins.
"I want to give it to those guys in the neutral zone with speed," he said. "They've got a ton of skill and obviously I'm not going to take as many shots as them. I want to let them take the shots because they got better shots than me."
— The Canadian Press
"It just makes it extra special."
The Leafs simply couldn't find an answer for Vancouver's top line of Burrows, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, who returned to the lineup after sitting out Thursday's game in Carolina with back spasms. That unit kept possession of the puck the majority of the night and accounted for the two most important goals of the game.
Burrows found Daniel Sedin with a perfect pass late in the second period to put Vancouver ahead 3-2 before scoring himself with a perfectly placed wrist shot to make it 4-2 with less than six minutes remaining.
"He's the reason we are good as a line," Daniel Sedin, last year's NHL scoring champion, said of Burrows. "He's the reason why we're producing offensively. He does a lot of the dirty work and like I said, I hope everyone gives him enough credit. We certainly do."
Back in groove
Roberto Luongo had a strong performance with 26 saves while Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen added goals for the Canucks (19-11-2), who seem to have their groove back with points in 11 of 13 games.
Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel replied for Toronto (16-13-3).
"We're right where I expected we would be," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "We just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. It's as simple as that."
Even though the Leafs were playing for the second straight night and Vancouver was wrapping up a five-game road trip, two of the NHL's better-skating teams played at a high pace. The back-and-forth game featured quality scoring chances at both ends and excellent goaltending despite all of the scoring.
Luongo and Jonas Gustavsson traded eye-popping saves in the first period -- with the Canucks goaltender hearing chants of "Luuuu!" from the large cluster of Canucks fans at Air Canada Centre when he got his glove on a Colby Armstrong shot before his counterpart came across his crease to rob Burrows soon after.
"Our guys really wanted to have this game tonight," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "I thought we did a real good job. I mean that team has a tremendous amount of speed and skill up front and they've got three [defencemen] that love to jump up in the attack.
"It was a good game."
Despite dropping their second game in as many nights, the Leafs were encouraged that they were able to compete with the Canucks.
"We were right there," Lupul said. "We're down one with a couple minutes left. There's no question in our minds we can play with that team. … We were close but we weren't quite there tonight."
After Higgins and Lupul traded goals in the first period, Raymond put Vancouver ahead 2-1 just 49 seconds into the second period. He picked up a loose puck in the high slot and beat Gustavsson for his third goal in seven games since returning from the serious back injury he suffered during last year's Stanley Cup final.
Raymond is thrilled to be contributing after spending so much time on the sidelines.
"If I can continue at this pace, I'd be very happy," he said.
After Bozak tied the game, Burrows and the Sedins took centre stage. The backhand pass Burrows found Daniel Sedin with late in the second period showed he can be a playmaker as well as scorer.
As far as he's concerned, it couldn't have come in much better setting.
"I grew up in Montreal and when you're a Habs fan growing up, it seems it's just in your blood [to hate the Leafs]," said Burrows. "It's a great place to play. As a kid, you always dreamed to play 'Hockey Night in Canada' in Toronto.
"It's a coast-to-coast game and you want to show what your team's all about."