Criticized for his play since signing with the Vancouver Canucks, Mats Sundin seems to have finally found his touch around the net. The 37-year-old centre scored two more goals Tuesday, helping his new team rally for its third straight win, a 6-4 victory over St. Louis.
“It’s a process for myself, but I think the last four or five games the legs are there,” Sundin said after Vancouver blew past the St. Louis Blues with a four-goal third period. “I don’t feel better or worse than what I thought it would be after 10 or 11 games.”
Jannik Hansen’s rebound goal with 4:42 to go capped a rally from a pair of two-goal deficits against a team surging back into the fringe of the playoff picture.
“You look at the standings and St. Louis has been playing so well,” Sundin said. “We showed a lot of character, and hopefully we can build on this.”
Andy McDonald had a goal and an assist in his first game back after missing 36 due to a broken left ankle for the Blues, who also got three assists from Patrik Berglund.
St. Louis, which had been 6-1-3 in their previous 10 games, missed a chance to escape the Western Conference cellar for the first time since Dec. 13.
“It’s the kind of game that rips your heart out,” coach Andy Murray said. “It’s a real tough one to lose.”
The Canucks have outscored their opponents 17-10 the last three games after losing eight straight. Vancouver capitalized on three power plays in a four-goal third period, scoring on one and getting the go-ahead goal six seconds after a tripping call on Barret Jackman expired.
Sundin has four goals in three games, and has totalled six goals and 10 points in 12 games since signing a free agent deal with Vancouver in December. He’s thriving on a line with Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra, which has produced 20 points the last three games.
“Ryan, in my book, is having a breakthrough season and Pavol is a veteran guy who knows where to go on the ice,” said Sundin, who signed with Vancouver in December. “It’s been fun playing with those two guys.”
The Canucks trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before rallying in the third period to tie it twice, the first time on Kesler’s 15th goal. McDonald’s seventh goal put the Blues ahead 4-3 at 9:26, before Vancouver stormed back with goals by Alex Burrows, Hansen and Demitra into an empty net.
The Blues were 2-for-4 on the power play, but had no chances in the third.
McDonald led St. Louis with 18 points in 16 games before the injury, and signed a US$18.8, four-year contract extension on Monday. He said his game was a bit rusty.
“Probably my timing is a little bit off and I’m a little bit slow making decisions,” McDonald said. “But I was excited to be out there.”
Sundin scored both of his goals in the second, tapping in a rebound on a power play after Demitra hit the post, and beating Chris Mason from the left side to cut the deficit to 3-2 at the eight-minute mark. Sundin’s second goal came about two minutes after Keith Tkachuk scored on a rebound, hustling to beat a defender to the puck for his 17th of the season.
Steve Wagner and Brad Boyes scored late in the first period to give the Blues an early cushion. McDonald assisted on the first goal, with Wagner stepping up into the left circle before beating Roberto Luongo at 18:27, and Boyes got his 24th with four seconds to go on a power play.
Notes: Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the death of longtime Blues announcer Dan Kelly, for whom the press box is named. Kelly’s son John is the team’s TV play-by-play man. … The Canucks have allowed at least one power-play goal in 13 of 14 games, allowing 20 in that stretch. In the other game, they had to kill only one power play.