Cody Hodgson gets less ice time than most other top NHL rookies, but he is making the most of the opportunities that are coming to him.
The 21-year-old had the first two-goal game of his NHL career, netting his second tally with 4:17 left, to lift the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Hodgson’s late goal, which capped an outburst in which the Canucks scored twice and the Sharks once in a span of 1:32, was actually a pass to teammate Mason Raymond from behind the goal line. The puck caromed off the stick of Sharks forward Michal Handzus and got past a surprised Antti Niemi.
”Everybody wants to contribute and do well,” Hodgson said. ”It doesn’t matter who gets the goals on the team, we just want to play well and come out with a win.”
Hodgson is fourth in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 29 points – six points behind injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Edmonton – even though he averages 12:39 of ice time per game. Only Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier, at 12:31, plays less among the top 20 on the rookie scoring list.
Hodgson has seven goals and seven assists in his past 16 games.
”When he’s on the ice, you’re hearing more and more compliments on the bench of guys talking about him,” teammate Kevin Bieksa said. ”It’s nice to see him playing like this, and he’s helping the team win.”
Ryan Kesler and David Booth also scored for Vancouver (29-15-4), which is 1-1-1 halfway through its six-game homestand.
Logan Couture scored a short-handed goal and added a power-play tally, and Dan Boyle also had a goal for the depleted Sharks (26-14-5), who were without top-six forwards Martin Havlat (hamstring) and Ryane Clowe (facial injury) and lost their second straight.
With the game tied 2-2 late in the third period, the teams combined for three goals in a span of 1:32.
Kesler gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead with 5:49 remaining. He took the puck at his blue line, streaking down the ice on a 2-on-1 break, and beat goalie Antti Niemi with a high glove shot for his 13th goal.
Kesler, who was mildly criticized by coach Alain Vigneault last week for not using his linemates enough, said he thought about passing but couldn’t settle the puck.
”It looks like the coach really sparked him there with those comments,” Bieksa said. ”Vintage Kes is back, a great goal by Kesler.”
Boyle responded 36 seconds later, charging hard to the net and backhanding his rebound past Roberto Luongo.
The teams seemed headed for their third straight overtime game against each other, but Hodgson struck again. Vancouver won the season series with three victories in four games.
”You have to play your best when you’re playing the best teams,” Kesler said. ”We have a good rivalry against those guys and we’ve got to be ready to play those guys every time.”
Hodgson got deep in San Jose territory and banked a shot from behind the goal line off Niemi’s stick and in. Hodgson, who drew chants of ”Cody, Cody, Cody” after the game, has 13 goals and 29 points this season – fourth best in the rookie scoring race.
Canucks games against the Sharks have taken on a new meaning since last year’s Western Conference finals, in which Vancouver won a heated series 4-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
”After last year, putting us out in the playoffs, you never like to lose to these guys,” Couture said. ”It fires me up and it fires up a bunch of guys in the room so it’s frustrating we couldn’t win this one.”
Jamie McGinn hammered Dan Hamhuis halfway into San Jose’s bench, Brad Winchester caught Alex Burrows with his head down behind Vancouver’s net, and Keith Ballard took on Joe Pavelski in a spirited bout with 7 seconds remaining in the second period.
The game was tied 2-2 after two periods, despite the Sharks managing only seven shots through the first 30 minutes.
Couture gave the San Jose a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal early in the second period. He took a pass and quickly backhanded a shot short side behind a surprised Luongo. It was San Jose’s sixth power-play goal in 45 chances since Dec. 23.
Hodgson got that back 3 minutes later, going to the net off a faceoff and backhanding Mason Raymond’s rebound into the open net.
Booth scored his second goal in two games after recently returning from a knee injury. He deftly deflected Alex Edler’s point shot 1:06 into the game to open the scoring, and the Canucks kept coming from there.
Kesler’s rebound chance fluttered just over the crossbar and onto the top of the net, and Raymond’s snap shot from the left side rang off the goal post.
This came in the first nine minutes, before the Sharks recorded a shot.
But Couture responded with a short-handed tally at 15:54, outracing Bieksa and Hamhuis on a breakaway and fooling Luongo with a backhand deke.
NOTES: Vancouver is 6-0 in games after two straight losses. … Canucks D Chris Tanev played in his first game of the season. Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer were healthy scratches. … Since Todd McLellan became coach of the Sharks at the start of the 2008-09 season, San Jose has the NHL best regular-season record with a .677 winning percentage. … No player in the NHL has more points than San Jose’s Joe Thornton since his debut in 1997. Thornton, who has been in 1,038 games, has 37 points in 45 games this season.