Kesler, Canucks hammer Flyers
Rogers Arena, Vancouver
Ryan Kesler (VAN) — 2 goals, 1 assist
Henrik Sedin (VAN) — 3 assists
Roberto Luongo (VAN) — 35 saves
Vancouver Canucks centre Ryan Kesler gave the Philadelphia Flyers a close look at what they almost had.
Kesler, who signed an offer sheet from the Flyers in 2006, scored twice early in the second period and added an assist in the third as the Canucks beat the Flyers 6-2 on Tuesday night.
The Canucks matched the one-year, $1.9-million offer from Philadelphia rather than accepting draft picks as compensation for losing him to the Flyers. The 26-year-old Michigan native has spent the past 2 1/2 years proving that Vancouver made a great decision.
A finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward the last two seasons, Kesler is on pace to smash last year's career-high 25 goals and improve on his 75 points after extending his point streak to eight games on Tuesday.
"I've worked extremely hard," said Kesler, who notched his 19th goal and 34th point in 35 games. "I haven't been satisfied since I've been in the league. Every year I want to get better and this year is no different. I want to be a better all-around player, and I think each game I am getting better."
Kesler fired in a wrist shot from the top of the circle 56 seconds into the middle period, and added his second goal on a nifty power play deflection less than five minutes later to chase goalie Brian Boucher. He came inches from his second hat trick in two weeks when he hit the crossbar on a breakaway 7:47 into the third, but linemate Jeff Tambellini tapped in the rebound.
Kesler downplayed the offer sheet.
"That was a long time ago," he said.
His current Canucks teammates are glad Vancouver kept him.
"He's a force for us," said Roberto Luongo, who made 35 saves in the win. "Not only offensively, but he takes some big draws, he's playing the (penalty kill), he's doing it all. It's nice to have a guy like that on your team."
Playing for the first time since a 5-0 loss to Florida eight days earlier ended their five-game winning streak, the Flyers were outshot 49-37 and outplayed throughout. They refused to blame the rare seven-day break and travel.
"I have no excuses to explain what happened there," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "It's two games in a row now for us where we don't compete."
Manny Malhotra scored late in the first period, Daniel Sedin added a goal in between Kesler's two, and Jannik Hansen scored early in the third as Vancouver beat the Flyers at home for the first time since 1989.
Danny Briere and Jeff Carter, on a late power play, scored for Philadelphia, which was 10-0-4 in Vancouver since that loss.
"Their whole team controlled the hockey game," Briere said. "That's going to have to be rectified on our side. We've been way too soft and we have to get back to the way we used to play and not play so much on the perimeter."
Henrik Sedin had three assists for the Canucks, who are 12-1-2 in their last 15. Vancouver moved one point behind Detroit for first place in the Western Conference.
"We had the puck most of the night," Henrik Sedin said.
Despite that, Boucher kept the Flyers in the game while they were being outshot 22-8 in the first period. He made a breakaway save off Alex Burrows, forced Tambellini and Daniel Sedin wide from close in the opening four minutes, and stopped seven shots during one power play for the Canucks' second-ranked unit.
Shortly after that advantage ended, Malhotra tipped a long shot past Boucher. Kesler's 40-foot wrist shot then somehow went in off Boucher's right pad in the opening minute of the second period.
The goals kept coming.
Daniel Sedin made it 3-0 after a pretty fake shot and pass by Burrows left him with an empty net. Briere got that back a minute later, but Kesler tipped Henrik Sedin's soft shot under Boucher's blocker arm two minutes after that.
"He's playing great," Henrik said of Kesler. "He's stronger, quicker, more confident and he's got a great shot. This is the way we need him to play."