By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – With their leading scorer sidelined because of the flu, the Vancouver Canucks turned to some unlikely sources for offence on Tuesday night.
Ryan Stanton scored his first goal in more than a year and Nick Bonino and Linden Vey also broke long droughts as Vancouver downed the New York Islanders 3-2.
“I think every team that’s good in this league and wins has some secondary scoring,” said Santon. “I think we got it tonight. Bonino got out of a slump there, Vey got one and probably the least likely guy to get one â€” me â€” got one.
“It was nice and it feels so much better in a win.”
Stanton’s goal was the rugged defenceman’s first in 84 games dating back to Oct. 17, 2013, while Bonino scored his first in eight games and Vey buried his first in the last 13.
“It hasn’t been fun. I think I’m doing well in other areas of the ice,” said Bonino, who now has two goals in the last 24 games. “I feel like I’m playing good hockey, the puck just wouldn’t go in. There have been chances every night. Tonight one went in. Hopefully it continues.”
Vey, who was only elevated into the lineup after Canucks sniper Radim Vrbata and his 16 goals and 13 assists fell ill earlier in the day, found out he would be suiting up after arriving at Rogers Arena about 2 1/2 hours before faceoff.
“You need guys to step up. Obviously (Bonino) has been snake bitten for a while and he’s had lots of chances,” said Vey. “It’s good to see him find one. And obviously you get a goal from Stants who’s struggled in the goal department this year.”
Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins reunited Henrik and Daniel Sedin with Alexandre Burrows on the first line and had planned to put Bonino and Chris Higgins with Vrbata before Vey was pressed into action. While the twins weren’t able to click with Burrows, Vey found chemistry on with his linemates.
“I think it’s always nice to capitalize on an opportunity,” said Vey, who was healthy scratch on Saturday. “I just wanted to bring a little more energy and create a little bit more and I got to play with Bonino and Higgins. Those guys are two great players and it makes the game a lot easier.”
Eddie Lack got the call in place of No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller and made 21 saves for the Canucks (23-12-3) in his first start since Dec. 17. The win improved Vancouver to 5-1-1 over its last seven.
“I really felt like we played a good team game. I feel like they made me see the puck all night,” said Lack, who turned 27 on Monday. “I kind of felt it took me five, 10 minutes to get into the groove a little bit. I felt like I was chasing the game a little bit, maybe like training camp again. After that I felt normal.”
Matt Martin and Mikhail Grabovski scored and Jaroslav Halak made 17 stops for New York (26-13-1), which was coming off a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night.
“I didn’t think we were sharp. We didn’t execute,” said Islanders forward Kyle Okposo. “The last couple games, even three games, we haven’t been ourselves, haven’t had that same pop and we just have to find a way to get that back.
“It’s not time to panic, but we just need to be better.”
Vancouver grabbed a 2-1 lead at 8:01 of the second period after New York defenceman Thomas Hickey tried to clear the puck up the middle of the Islanders’ zone. It was intercepted by Kevin Bieksa at the blue-line and he fired a shot that Bonino redirected in front of Halak before shovelling home the rebound.
Vey then stretched the lead to two at 17:36 after Hickey turned the puck over on a rush and Derek Dorsett fed a streaking Vey, who moved in alone and fired a shot through Halak’s pads for his sixth of the season.
“We played a pretty good hockey game, but you can’t manage the puck like that and expect to win. That’s the bottom line,” said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. “The whole thing about this game is being able to execute your breakouts and for whatever reason or defence didn’t move the puck tonight and before you know it, it’s in the back of our net.”
The Canucks nursed that 3-1 lead in the third period and Lack was rarely threatened until Grabovski scored his sixth of the season and first in 11 games off a pass from Okposo after a Bieksa turnover at 14:33.
Lack and the Canucks were embarrassed by the Islanders at Rogers Arena last March in a game that saw Vancouver blow a 3-0 third-period lead in a 7-4 loss, but the hosts would hold off a late charge on this night.
“I was kind of thinking of it a little bit before the third period, but once we started playing I was feeling normal again,” said Lack.
The Islanders opened the scoring at 9:38 of the first period after Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic moved down the right side off the rush and threw the puck in front to Martin, who fought off a check from Bieksa to direct home his fifth of the season.
The Canucks got that one back less than three minutes when Vancouver forward Brad Richardson jumped on New York’s first costly turnover behind Halak’s net and walked out front. Halak made the first save, but the rebound squirted to Stanton and the pinching defenceman scored his first goal in more than 14 months into the open side.
“It definitely felt nice,” he said. “Obviously I’m not a huge goal scorer, but when you go 80 some games without scoring a goal it definitely starts to creep in the back of your mind.”
Notes: The Canucks lost Richardson to a lower-body injury in the second period, but Desjardins said he expected him to be OK. … Grabovski’s goal was just his second in the last 22 games. … Vancouver continues a five-game homestand on Thursday against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers. … The Islanders visit the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
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