Vancouver runs winning streak to 6

BY foxsports • February 7, 2011

Vancouver forward Mikael Samuelsson says he is reaping the rewards for sticking with it during a scoring slump.

His Canucks teammates almost didn't stick with it long enough against Ottawa.

Samuelsson scored his second goal into an empty net with 31.5 seconds left and added an assist as the streaking Canucks built an early lead and hung on for a 4-2 win over the struggling Senators on Monday night.

Samuelsson's three-point night gives him nine during a four-game point streak, and five goals and 11 points in his last six contests. He recorded only a single assist in the previous 14 games before that.

''You've got to stick with it,'' said Samuelsson. ''It's not going to go your way all the time. You stay humble and you really have to bear down and remind yourself what (worked) in the past.''

It helps to play with second-line center Ryan Kesler, who scored his 31st goal and added and assist. Mason Raymond has three assists as the second line combined for eight points.

''We are using each other, give-and-goes, cycles,'' Kesler said. ''Using our strengths to our advantage, which is speed, shooting the puck and going to the net.''

Alex Burrows also scored and Roberto Luongo made 31 saves as Vancouver won its sixth straight game. The Canucks only have two regulation losses in the last two months (21-2-6), extended their lead atop the NHL to four points, and remained nine up on Detroit in the Western Conference.

It didn't come as easy as expected against an Ottawa team that has now lost 10 straight.

Nick Foligno and Jason Spezza scored less than 2 minutes apart in the second period to pull Ottawa to 3-2. The Senators hit three posts before the period ended, but failed to convert a power play to start the third and finished 0 for 5 with the man advantage, losing for the 15th time in 16 games.

''We've had enough close calls lately,'' said Spezza. ''We're pretty disappointed. We've just got to figure out what we did well the second half of the game and bring that to our next game.''

That may not be as easy as it sounds if you listened to the Canucks, who cited the loss of two defensemen for the second period near collapse. Vancouver lost Keith Ballard to a scary looking knee injury just 2:23 in, and Aaron Rome collected 17 minutes in penalties late in the first period after coming to the defense of captain Henrik Sedin after a big hit by tough guy Chris Neil.

''It's tough for the D when they are playing four back there and getting pressured as hard as they are,'' Kesler said. ''Going out every other shift is pretty tiring.''

Burrows opened the scoring on a walkout 8:50 into the game, and Kesler doubled the lead 1:10 later, firing a shot over Brian Elliott's glove 20 seconds after hitting the post on a similar attempt.

Samuelsson converted a goalmouth feed from Kesler 2:12 into the second - a pass made with Jannik Hansen's stick after breaking his own and grabbing one off the bench as the play went up ice.

''Jannik was on his toes there and noticed I needed a right-handed shot and we don't have too many,'' Kesler said. ''He should get a half an assist.''

Foligno got the Senators back in it with a spinning backhand over Luongo's glove at 5:30, and Spezza finished off a rare 3-on-0 breakaway by banging in his own rebound 1:47 later.

''A bad decision at their blue line and a bad changed and a 3-on-0, and then got in penalty trouble so obviously they were going to get a little momentum,'' said coach Alain Vigneault.

''At the end of the day our goaltender was real good again.''

Lucky, too. Sergei Gonchar rang a shot off the post and another was tipped off the bar on a power play, and Milan Michalek hit iron on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush before the period ended.

''Those will start going post and in instead of post and out,'' said Elliott, who made 26 saves. ''This is arguably one of the top teams - if not the top - in the NHL. We stood in there and we made 'em sweat.

Notes: Ballard's status will be updated after an MRI Tuesday. His right leg got caught awkwardly under him while being taken down from behind by Michalek and he didn't put any weight on his right foot as he hopped to the locker room. ... Luongo was also receiving medical treatment after the game, but Vigneault said he just wasn't feeling well: ''Maybe the flu. I assume it's nothing serious. ... Senators C Jesse Winchester left late in the first period with a lower-body injury, but coach Cory Clouston did not have an update after the game.