LOS ANGELES – On a night of surprise and debate regarding the Vancouver Canucks, the most unexpected sight was Swiss winger Sven Baertschi square-dancing as he entered the National Hockey League team’s dressing room post-game.
“I’m trying to figure out my second language,” Baetschi explained after scoring the winner in a remarkable 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings. “Chattahoochee? What does that mean? It kind of throws me off.”
It’s a country song by Alan Jackson – victory music following a game in which the Canucks trailed 2-0 after three minutes, then recovered their equilibrium and earned both points against a powerful opponent to salvage their California road trip.
Derek Dorsett, who has returned from career-threatening spinal surgery last season, fought Kings enforcer Andy Andreoff when Vancouver fell behind after only 23 seconds. Debate fighting among yourselves – it’s a legitimate and serious discussion – but do not doubt the bracing effect Dorsett had on his teammates.
Vancouver’s power play, re-jigged by coach Travis Green after it cost the Canucks in a 5-0 loss Saturday to the San Jose Sharks, produced both the tying and winning goals.
And Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson, who was unavailable for four games last week due to the birth of his child, looked like he might go into labour after allowing an atrocious goal on the first shot he faced since Oct. 26. Then he stopped 30 of the next 31 shots, including all 15 in the third period as Vancouver finished a 2-2 road trip in the middle of an extremely taxing month.
“It’s always tough to start that way,” Baertschi said of an 0-2 deficit by 3:14 of the first period. “But this year, I just have a different feeling about our team. I always feel like we have a chance to come back. After three minutes, 2-0? Well, there’s still 57 minutes to come back, and that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Asked if Dorsett fighting Andreoff made a difference, Baertschi said: “Oh, my God. It just got all the guys going. He knows the right time for it, when to step up. He’s doing everything for us. It’s not just fighting. It’s blocking shots, all the little details. Some people may not see Dorse as that important. But for us, as a team – and we’re all brothers in here – when you see a guy go do something like that, it gets us fired up.”
Dorsett said: “I thought that (first goal) was going to give them a little bit of momentum. So I just thought it was a good time to see if he wanted to fight.”
Earthquakes in Los Angeles have had more positive starts than the Canucks had against the Kings.
Canuck Michael Del Zotto’s pass into his own slot exploded off Markus Granlund’s stick, and Tanner Pearson scooped the turnover and banked a sharp-angle shot off Nilsson’s hip to make it 1-0 for Los Angeles at 23 seconds.
At 1:15, Canuck Brendan Gaunce marked his return to the lineup by taking a tripping penalty. And at 3:14, Anze Kopitar made it 2-0 by skating away from Bo Horvat to convert a back-post pass by Dustin Brown.
At that point, shot attempts were 9-0 for the Kings and you wondered if the Canucks might actually double the 1-9 California deficit they brought into the game after lopsided losses to the Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.
But between those two goals, causing a debate that lit up the Internet on the West Coast, Dorsett fought Andreoff. And once the Canucks actually gave themselves a chance to play at even strength, they fairly dominated the rest of the period territorially.
In the middle period, the Canucks translated that onto the scoreboard.
A fluke goal – neither more nor less deserved than Pearson’s bank shot off Nilsson – got Vancouver within a goal at 5:10 when Henrik Sedin’s centring pass/shot/prayer hit the butt of Kings’ forward Nick Shore and caromed past goalie Jonathan Quick.
The play began with an excellent cross-ice pass from Canucks defenceman Derrick Pouliot, who released Loui Eriksson down the left wing for an open shot on Quick. Eriksson retrieved the rebound and relayed it to Sedin.
The newly constructed power play then tied it 2-2 at 10:00 when Horvat recovered a loose puck, then established body position at the top of the crease just in time to bunt in the tumbling rebound from Brock Boeser’s off-wing shot, which Quick struggled to handle.
“I think we always had chemistry,” Boeser said of the remade power play. “We just set up different looks for certain guys. Our power play has been a big turning point in some of (Vancouver’s losses). Tonight, it was a turning point that helped us win the game.”
The second-unit power play broke the tie at 4:07 of the third period when Baertschi took a cross-ice pass from Thomas Vanek and rifled a shot over Quick’s shoulder as the goaltender moved across his crease.
Green and hockey coaches everywhere fume about reporters making too much of losses. So let’s not make too much of one win. But it’s one the Canucks had to have, and it was an unconventional and unexpected as it was impressive.