Vrbata, Bonino score for Canucks in 4-1 win over Blues
ST. LOUIS – As usual, the Vancouver Canucks were strong on the road. The St. Louis Blues didn’t put up much of a fight. Radim Vrbata had a goal and assist, and Eddie Lack made 23 saves as the Canucks opened a four-game trip with a 4-1 victory over the struggling Blues on Monday night. They will look for a repeat Tuesday against the Predators.
“We rise to the occasion against those good teams,” said Nick
Bonino, who got the go-ahead goal in the second period. “We’ve done it all year and it’s going to need to happen again.”
Zbynek Michalek scored for the Blues, who never led and missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory. St. Louis has lost two straight at home, has one win its last six games overall, and remained one point shy of a seventh 100-point season.
“We gave up so many chances and so many breakaways and odd-man rushes, it’s ugly to look at,” Michalek said. “That’s no way to play, especially this time of the season.”
Forward T.J. Oshie, who returned from a one-game absence due to the flu, thought players might be thinking too much.
“Maybe it looks like a lack of urgency or a lack of effort,” Oshie said. “I’m not sure what it looks like from up top, but guys aren’t really sticking with their gut and going with their first instinct.”
Bonino scored just 31 seconds after the Blues tied it on Michalek’s first goal since Jan. 31.
Shawn Matthias also scored for Vancouver, which strengthened its hold on second place in the Pacific Division, two days after squandering a lead at home against Dallas in an overtime loss.
“There are less distractions on the road, you don’t have the family and kids,” Bonino said. “So that definitely plays into it, but it’s been a pretty good road year for us so far.”
Lack is 5-0 with one shutout against the Blues.
“Obviously, they’re a really good team so we’re always focused playing them,” Lack said. “Everyone keeps coming, and we’re having a little bit of luck on the way.”
Vrbata’s 31st goal gave Vancouver its first two-goal lead early in the third on a shot that deflected off goalie Brian Elliott’s stick.
Alexandre Burrows added an empty-net goal for the Canucks, who beat St. Louis for the third time this season and sixth in a row overall. Vancouver is better on the road (23-12-3) than at home (21-15-2).
“I was thinking if I could shut the door early and give the boys a chance, we’re going to get stronger,” Lack said. “And we did so.”
The Canucks had perfect timing on a line change for both teams to take the lead early in the second. The Blues were caught off-guard, and Matthias jumped on ice in time for a breakaway at 3:54. Elliott came out of the net to cut down the angle on a shot by Kevin Bieksa that was well wide, and Bonino had an easy tap-in for his 15th goal at 13:15.
“It bounced straight to their guy, but we usually have some kind of coverage there,” Elliott said. “We’ll have to sort it out, we’ll watch and learn.”
The Blues were scoreless in the first period for the 10th straight game, but the Canucks failed to capitalize on a few big chances. Michalek covered an empty net to stymie Henrik Sedin early in the period after Elliott mishandled the puck. Elliott made a pad save to stop a break-in by Derek Dorsett.
NOTES: Blues F Alexander Steen (knee) was out, but he could return to the lineup on Thursday against Calgary. … Vrbata has 29 points in his last 30 games. … The attendance of 19,204 was the Blues’ 19th home sellout. … Bonino has three goals and an assist this season against St. Louis.