VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Mike Santorelli has truly found a home with the Vancouver Canucks.
Santorelli, signed as free agent by Vancouver in the offseason after being cast adrift by three NHL clubs, scored two goals and added an assist as the Canucks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Sunday night.
“It feels nice, for sure. A lot of us have been sniffing around (the net), and our line played great tonight,” he said.
The 27-year-old Vancouver native was selected by the Nashville Predators in the sixth round of the 2004 draft, but spent much of his four seasons with them in the minors.
Santorelli failed to stick with Florida and Winnipeg, and also played briefly in Sweden during the NHL lockout last season.
But Santorelli, who joined Vancouver on a two-way contract, has eight goals this season, easily surpassing the two he produced with Florida last season while splitting the campaign with the Panthers and Jets.
He is just one shy of the nine he scored in 60 games with Florida in the 2011-12 season.
“He was our best player by far tonight in all areas,” Canucks coach John Tortorella said.
The Canucks (17-10-5) earned their fifth win in sixth games and moved within a point of the Avalanche (20-8) in the tight Western Conference standings.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere lost for the first time in eight decisions this season. The Avalanche were beaten for the third time in nine games.
“I honestly felt we played a better game than them and, unfortunately, we have nothing to show for the result,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “But, I mean, Luongo was good. Both goalies were good, actually.”
Luongo had no interest in talking about the one puck that got past him.
“If you ask me about the goal I am going to snap,” Luongo said with a laugh. “It’s all right, that stuff happens. We’ll take the two points and move on.”
Ryan Kesler also scored for the Canucks, who were outshot 29-21.
Giguere’s 7-0 start was a career best and a Colorado franchise record.
“I didn’t think we played terribly bad,” he said. “But I don’t think it was our best effort, either. I don’t think it was, overall, a great effort by either team. It was kind of a grind-it-out type of game, and they got the two goals in the third.
“We just couldn’t recover from that.”
The Canucks, criticized by Tortorella following Friday’s overtime win over Phoenix for an ongoing inability to finish out wins, broke open a tight game with two goals in the third.
Vancouver, shut out on three power plays, failed to net a man-advantage goal for the first time in eight games. Colorado had one power play.
The Avalanche outshot the Canucks 12-6 in the first period, but Vancouver held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Santorelli opened the scoring 5:34 in on his club’s first shot. He deked Giguere after Chris Higgins intercepted Colorado defenseman Nate Guerin’s pass behind the net and sent the puck out front.
The Canucks had chances to increase their lead in the closing seconds of the first, but Nick Holden pulled the puck off the goal line. Giguere also stopped Daniel Sedin‘s backhand and then denied Ryan Stanton on the final shot of the period.
Early in the second, Giguere stopped a dangerous chance by Santorelli, and Luongo foiled John Mitchell by doing the splits. With just over three minutes left in the second, Holden beat Luongo cleanly with a high slap shot, but the puck bounced off the crossbar, went back down to the ice and was cleared.
Kesler put the Canucks ahead 2-0 at 1:32 of the second period when he tucked in Santorelli’s rebound while standing alone beside the net. The goal was Kesler’s 15th in 32 games this season, putting him seven shy of the 22 he mustered in 77 games in the 2011-12 season.
He has already surpassed the four he scored in an injury-plagued and lockout-shortened 2013 season.
About five minutes later, Santorelli beat Giguere with a high shot while using Higgins as a decoy on a 2-on-1 break.
The Canucks’ second line of Santorelli, Kesler and Higgins, who had two assists, accounted for all of Vancouver’s goals.
“They are two unbelievable players to play with, and it’s nice playing with two guys like that,” Santorelli said. “You learn a lot from them. We are communicating with each other on the bench and letting each other know where we are and things like that, and it’s been fun.”
NOTES: The Canucks recalled D Yannick Weber from Utica (AHL). He adds further depth following Alex Edler’s undisclosed injury and Tortorella’s comment that Andrew Alberts‘ play “scares” him. Edler sat out a second consecutive game. … This season marks the first since the former Quebec Nordiques franchise relocated to Colorado that the Avalanche and Canucks aren’t in the same division.
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