Hockey

Blues make Sundin, Canucks pay

Mats Sundin took a bad penalty late in his home debut for the Vancouver Canucks, and the St. Louis Blues captialized on the power play for the winning goal in a 6-4 win.

Mats Sundin took a bad penalty late in his home debut for the Vancouver Canucks, and the St. Louis Blues capitalized on the power play for the winning goal in a 6-4 win.

Not long after Daniel Sedin tied the game 4-4 in the third period for the Canucks, Sundin chopped at and broke the stick of Tyson Strachan.

Brad Boyes notched his 17th on the ensuing power play at 17:50 of the third, a one-timer slapshot that beat Vancouver goalie Jason LaBarbera.

"It was a battle for a puck," said Sundin, who signed with Vancouver as a free agent on Dec. 18. "That's the rule, when the stick breaks it's a penalty so there's not much to say."

Just 21 seconds later, B.J. Crombeen converted Keith Tkachuk's pass on a 2-on-1 to put the game out of reach.

"Unfortunately over the course of the first half of the year we'd find a way to do something to lose a game," said Tkachuk, named to his fifth NHL all-star game earlier in the week. "It was nice to battle and get a much-needed two points. We didn't quit."

Sundin was held without a point in a Vancouver uniform for the second time since returning to NHL play after 13 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sundin will appear as a Canuck for the first time before a national network television audience on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).

Vancouver dropped to 22-16-5, losing for the third time in four games. St. Louis improved to 16-21-3, winning consecutive games for the first time in a month.

Rookie Patrick Berglund and David Backes each had a goal and assist for the Blues, while Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie also scored.

Netminder Manny Legace got the win, stopping 18 shots.

Willie Mitchell had an eventful game for the Canucks. The defenceman scored and added two assists, but he was also on the ice for three St. Louis scores.

Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist, with Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows the other Vancouver marksmen. Henrik Sedin had two assists, with LaBarbera finishing with 30 saves.

The Blues began a three-game swing which sees them play in Edmonton on Sunday and Calgary on Tuesday.

Not long after an unsuccessful Vancouver power play midway through the first, Hansen fired a wicked wristshot from the left side over the blocker of Legace.

The Blues goalie shook the goal off, stretched seconds later to make a tremendous glove save on Daniel Sedin's shot.

Backes tied the game late in the period with his 13th, the result of lacklustre clearing attempts from Mitchell and teammate Lawrence Nycholat.

St. Louis couldn't score on a power play chance that lapsed in the final minute of the first, and Mitchell stormed the slot for a rebound, lifting the puck over Legace with 19 seconds left.

There were no goals in the second through the first 18 minutes. Backes was denied by LaBarbera on a power play, and Brad Winchester missed the mark on a follow up.

Vancouver's Mason Raymond was left alone late in the period but missed his own shot, a critical play as the Canucks completely collapsed defensively late in the period.

Impressive rookie Berglund snapped a shot while streaking down the left wing that beat LaBarbera to the glove side.

Great chances

St. Louis had two more great chances within the next minute. LaBarbera shut the door on Oshie, but Steen re-directed Tkachuk's backhand at 18:59.

It didn't take long for Vancouver to tie the game again, with Mitchell's shot from the point finding its way through traffic courtesy of a deflection by Burrows.

There were four goals in less than four minutes late in the final period Carlo Colaiacovo's shot from the point was stopped by LaBarbera, but Oshie was man on the spot for two whacks to make it 4-3.

St. Louis was soon cited for having too many on the ice late in the period, leaving Blues coach Andy Murray incredulous.

The Canucks took advantage, with Daniel Sedin deflecting Kevin Bieksa's blast from the point at 15:47.

The GM Place was buzzing with the score 4-4 and momentum apparently on Vancouver's side, but Sundin took his penalty deep in the St. Louis zone, leading to the disappointment that followed for the crowd.

"Our compete level compared to theirs was not good enough, without a doubt," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "I don't know for what reason.

"Most of the time — 95 percent of the time — what I can say about this group is our compete level is very high. Tonight we got outcompeted in all areas."

With files from the Canadian Press

now