WINNIPEG -- The Vancouver Canucks gave their hopes for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs a boost Wednesday night by beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in a shootout, though the victory may have come at a big cost.
Chris Higgins scored the only goal in the tiebreaker, beating Ondrej Pavelec in the third round to end the game. Alexandre Burrows scored twice in regulation after going without a goal in his first 35 games this season.
The win moved the Canucks (30-28-10) one point ahead of Winnipeg (30-28-9) in the Western Conference standings and within four points of the Dallas Stars for the second Western Conference wild-card spot in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs; however, Dallas has three games in hand on the Canucks.
"We know we have to keep winning games," said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, who became the first player in franchise history to play 1,000 games with the same team.
But the Canucks lost their top goal-scorer, center Ryan Kesler, for the rest of their four-game road trip after a knee-on-knee collision with Winnipeg's Jim Slater late in the second period. He didn't return, and Canucks coach John Tortorella said that Kesler will be sent back to Vancouver for further evaluation and will miss games against the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We lose [Kesler] before the third and we get down, so yeah, I thought we played hard right on through," Tortorella said. "And that's two out of the [past] three games that we have played well in the third period, so good for them. They've hung in there, they've hung together. Losing a big guy like (Kesler), I thought they stuck together as a group. It was really nice to see."
The Jets, who have one game in hand on the Canucks, are 0-3-2 in their past five games.
Burrows broke a 40-game regular-season scoreless streak with his first goals since April 15, 2013. His last goal of any kind came May 7, 2013, during the Canucks' first-round series against the San Jose Sharks.
Burrows enabled the Canucks to overcome a pair of one-goal Winnipeg leads. He tied the game 1-1 late in the second period and then forced overtime when he batted a puck out of the air and past Pavelec with 8:43 left in regulation.
"I tried to stay positive," Burrows said of his season-long scoring slump. "You just have to keep believing in yourself and pushing and working hard and try to get out of it."
The Canucks arrived in Winnipeg off a 7-4 home loss the New York Islanders on Monday in which they surrendered a 3-0 lead and allowed seven third-period goals, and they owned two wins in their past 10 games. The game Wednesday began a four-game road trip for the Canucks, who will play three games in four nights beginning Friday against the Capitals.
Tortorella started Eddie Lack, who was in net for six of the Islanders' seven goals, and the rookie goaltender rebounded with 32 saves, including 15 in the third period. He also stopped all three Winnipeg attempts in the shootout.
Pavelec returned after a one-game absence and made 31 saves. Andrew Ladd and Michael Frolik scored for the Jets.
Jets coach Paul Maurice admitted that his team must guard against frustration taking over the dressing room. The 11-3-1 run that followed the hiring of Maurice on Jan. 12 has given way to two wins in nine games as they begin to fade down the stretch. Blake Wheeler, who leads the Jets with 23 goals, has scored once in the past 10 games. Evander Kane not scored in 10 games and missed a penalty-shot attempt in the second period that could have given the Jets a 2-0 lead.
"You've got to feel [frustration] a little," Maurice said. "You're putting in a hard effort, and you want to get good results from that. When you don't, you should feel it a bit. We want to make sure we have a clear understanding of where we were good and where we weren't [at practice Thursday] and have that be a part of our game plan against the New York Rangers [on Friday]."
Ladd's 18th of the season opened the scoring 3:48 into the second period. Bryan Little sped down the right boards and sent a pass into the slot that Ladd snapped high over Lack.
The Jets had an opportunity to go up by two midway through the period when Kane was awarded a penalty shot, but he failed to beat Lack. That failure cost the Jets when Burrows tied the game at 15:38, sweeping the rebound of Jason Garrison's point shot off a right-circle draw past Pavelec.
Frolik broke the 1-1 tie 2:18 of the third period with his 13th goal, taking a centering pass from Olli Jokinen and backhanding a shot past Lack.
After Frolik's goal, Burrows went to work to tie the game. After the game, Tortorella praised Burrows' persistence through his scoring drought.
"He has played hard right on through this," Tortorella said. "He is so well-respected in the room. The guys feel for him, because he is trying. He has done all of the little things except score. He is a guy that when he wasn't scoring, he didn't cheat. He still did the little things away from the puck."
Tortorella is looking for more goals down the stretch from a team ranked 28th in offense with 2.29 goals per game.
"Maybe that's a good sign for us as we continue to try to grind away as we climb the hill," he said of the possibility of Burrows and Sedin increasing their offensive production. Sedin scored his first goal of 2014 in the loss to the Islanders.
This season has contained one controversy after another for the Canucks, and the team has come under heavy pressure in Vancouver.
"That's all outside stuff that we don't really control," Burrows said. "We know the reality of it. We have to find ways to win games. For us, as players, we have to prepare the right way and focus on what we can bring to the table to help this team win games. I thought that guys played well. There are still a lot of areas that we can improve on."
"Overall, we found a way to get the two points, and that's the most important."
Along with Burrows, Lack also found a respite from the turmoil surrounding his third period against the Islanders.
"It was really important for me," Lack said of his effort Wednesday. "It felt like I was really focused from the start. It was a really big relief for [me]."
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