PIC OF THE GAME
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Canucks forward Alex Burrows celebrated his contract extension Tuesday by making it a lot tougher for Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom to enjoy the first night of his new deal.
Backstrom's four-year, $24-million extension earlier in the day may have trumped the four-year, $8 million deal Burrows agreed to just before the game. But with two goals, the gritty Canucks winger was the only one smiling after a 4-2 win over the Wild.
"I'm really happy about it," said Burrows, a 27-year-old who could have left as a free agent in the summer. "I said all along that's what I wanted, to stay here in Vancouver and win a championship here and I feel the same way right now. I'm really glad that they showed some faith in me."
Burrows rewarded that faith against the Wild, leading the charge as the Canucks won for the 11th time in 13 games to stay four points ahead of Columbus for fifth place in the tightly packed Western Conference. Minnesota fell nine points back into 11th place - and three points behind a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots - after losing its fourth straight game.
"We wanted to get a bigger gap between us and them," said Burrows, whose name appeared in reports as a trade candidate
. "For me it was a really good afternoon and evening that we won and finally got my deal done, so now we can move forward and talk about the stretch run."
In addition to sparking a comeback with his first goal after the Canucks fell behind 2-0, he helped change the momentum on a dominant shift with about seven minutes left in the second period.
Combining with new linemates Daniel and Henrik Sedin
, Burrows controlled the play for almost 2 1/2 minutes in the Minnesota end. They didn't score, but set the stage for Pavol Demitra and Steve Bernier, who got goals 28 seconds apart before the period ended.
"That was long, and maybe killed our second period," said Backstrom, who made 28 saves but was subdued despite signing the lucrative contract. "We get tired and they get momentum."
Demitra, who left Minnesota last summer to sign with Vancouver, fired a 37-foot slap shot over Backstrom's glove with 2:04 left in the second period. It followed a Wild turnover just outside their blue line that allowed Mats Sundin to chip the puck ahead for a partial breakaway. Another turnover on the next shift - this time Marek Zidlicky and James Sheppard failed to clear - allowed Bernier to pounce on a loose puck in the slot, spin and fire it under Backstrom.
Dan Fritsche and Zidlicky staked Minnesota to a 2-0 lead 7 1/2 minutes into the game. Burrows started the comeback with a nice deflection seconds after a power play ended midway through the first period, and helped keep it going as part of the Canucks' dominant second-period shift.
Was there any doubt? New contract = giant performance. Another two goals in a come-from-behind-win.
Huge goal to tie it up against his former team. Incredible shot.
Two assists and a plus-two, and played a key role in "the shift" - a 2:22 beast in the Wild zone.
"We just lost our composure, gave them a little momentum and they ran with it," said Fritsche. "We sat back and let them control the game and we let them do that the whole second period."
Burrows added his second goal of the game on a breakaway with 6:57 left, taking a nice pass from Henrik Sedin
and beating Backstrom with a strong deke to his backhand. It was the 18th goal and 35th point of the season for Burrows, who was rewarded as he continues to build on career highs in both departments.
The 27-year-old Burrows started the season in his usual role as an agitating checker, but was promoted to the top line with the Sedins 10 games ago. He has six goals and 11 points since, and 10 points in his last eight games.
"I always put pressure on myself, but right now maybe to score more and be more of an offensive threat," said Burrows. "Those guys are going to make it happen for me, they re such unbelievable players and so smart with the puck.
By the end of the game, the sellout crowd of 18,630 was chanting Burrows' name, not bad for a player who was never drafted, and worked his way up from the ECHL to the AHL before signing with Vancouver after the 2005-06 season started. He finished that year with seven goals and 12 points in 43 games and has been with the Canucks ever since.
"Talk about a great story of perseverance," said coach Alain Vigneault, who coached Burrows in the AHL and pushed for the Canucks to sign him.
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo
coughed up the puck behind his net to set up Fritsche's goal 1:35 in, and was beaten through the legs by Zidlicky's skipping point shot on a power play. But Luongo settled down with 17 saves for his 11th win in the last 12 starts and hasn't given up more than two goals in six games.
Minnesota has dropped the first three games of a six-game road trip despite getting back top goal scorer Owen Nolan.
"We couldn't stop their momentum," said Nolan, who missed three games after breaking the big toe on his left foot Feb. 22 and is wearing a walking boot off the ice, played with a plastic toe guard on his left skate. "We've got to stay in this race, put these last couple games behind us and get focused for the next one and make sure we're ready to play."
"If you want to win in the playoffs you have to have the four lines do something good on the ice. You don’t need to score, but you need to create momentum for the team... I think that’s what we did in the second period." - Steve Bernier
"The last thing we want to do against that team is be down early. They can clog up the neutral zone, they can make it really hard. But our guys in the second and the third period were better with puck and we were able to get more pucks in their zone and make them work real hard." - Alain Vigneault
In 269 NHL games, Burrows, a 6-foot-1 winger who also plays a key role on the Canucks' penalty-killing unit, has 40 goals, 87 points and 438 penalty minutes. ... Wild tough guy Derek Boogaard was serving the second of a five-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Calgary's Brandon Prust last Friday. ... The Canucks lost D Lawrence Nycholat off waivers to Calgary earlier in the day. ... Vancouver is 4-0-1 against Minnesota this season.