ST. LOUIS – Thanks in large part to forward Ryan Kesler, the Vancouver Canucks’ longest trip of the season proved to be successful.
Kesler scored his second goal of the game at 4:45 of overtime to lift the Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
The Canucks went 5-1-1 on their seven-game trip.
“Day by day, it’s a really good trip,” first-year Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. “Throughout the trip, we won in different ways.
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“We kept our composure. We handled ourselves and stayed within ourselves. We know how long this trip has been.”
The Blues agreed with Tortorella’s assessment.
“They were playing their game, and they were right into it,” Blues forward David Backes said. “It took awhile for us to wake up. It’s not acceptable. We needed two points.”
The Canucks, who beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night, let a two-goal advantage slip away against the Blues but managed to get to overtime.
“We could have just threw our skates out there and made excuses,” Kesler told The Vancouver Sun. “But for us as a team, this was a statement game and we wanted to go out and put our best foot forward and I thought we did that.”
When it looked as though the game was headed for a shootout, Vancouver took advantage of a St. Louis mistake.
With 33.6 seconds left in the extra session, Patrik Berglund was sent off for hooking Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. Vancouver controlled the ensuing faceoff and scored on the four-on-three advantage when Kesler got the puck low in the slot and swatted it past goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
Kesler has seven goals for the 8-4-1 Canucks, but he isn’t satisfied.
“I can always improve,” Kesler said. “I’m going to keep riding it. This trip has helped me a lot.”
Backup goalie Eddie Lack made 22 saves for Vancouver. Chris Higgins had the Canucks’ other goal, and Mike Santorelli contributed two assists.
Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist for St. Louis, and Vladimir Sobotka also scored.
The Blues played their first game in a week, and their layoff showed during much of the first two periods.
“We discussed it before the game,” Steen said. “There’s no excuse for not coming out harder than we did, but as the game progressed, I thought we got into it more and started taking over.”
Higgins gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead with 2:49 left in the first period when he took a shot from the left circle. Defenseman Roman Polak slid down to block the shot, but he deflected it instead, and the puck sailed over Halak’s left shoulder.
After Kesler made the score 2-0 with a one-timer from the slot at 9:34 of the second period, the Blues got back in it by scoring on a five-on-three power play with 6.4 seconds left in the period.
T.J. Oshie — who was born in Mount Vernon and grew up in Everett — got control of the puck and sent a centering pass to Steen, who beat Lack with a one-timer.
Sobotka made the score 2-2 at 1:38 of the third.