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Lindholm does it all in impressive Canucks debut: ‘He was obviously great’


RALEIGH, N.C. – After nine days between games, the Vancouver Canucks emerged from the National Hockey League break the same first-place team that went into it. Well, not quite the same.

Now they have centre Elias Lindholm, so they may be even better.

After a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames last week – while Lindholm was on holiday in Mexico – the 29-year-old Swede scored twice in his Canucks’ debut on power-play tips and Vancouver beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Tuesday to re-ignite their hot streak.

The Canucks are 10-0-2 since Jan. 4. Lindholm became the first player to score twice in his Canuck debut since Esa Tikkanen 28 years ago, and Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko won his ninth straight start to tie Dan Cloutier’s franchise record from 2002.

“My role is to help the team both ways,” Lindholm said. “Obviously. . . hasn’t gone the way offensively I wanted (this season). But I’m happy to be here. I have a good opportunity to do something special here with this group. It’s always nice to score and, like I said, there hasn’t been too many this year. So it’s nice.

“There’s a lot of good players on this team. For me, it was kind of easy tonight. I didn’t have to do too much. They made it easy for me.”

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After scoring just nine times in 49 games in Calgary under the stress of failed contract negotiations and uncertainty about his future, Lindholm made it look easy on his goals, deftly tipping in purposeful point shots by Quinn Hughes in the first and second periods as the Canuck power play went 2-for-3 against the Hurricanes’ fourth-ranked penalty killing.

But the centre’s night was much more than his two goals. Lindholm led Canuck forwards with 21:06 of ice time, was first out for faceoffs on the penalty kill, and registered three blocks, the last one against Dmitry Orlov’s one-timer with about 14 seconds remaining. Linemate Elias Pettersson followed it with a block against Michael Bunting.

“Take away the goals aside,” Canuck coach Rick Tocchet said of Lindholm’s performance. “We talked about watching him on netfront in Calgary, how good he was. But just at the end, that blocked shot, knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be. You can just tell. When you go through the tape tomorrow, you will see hockey IQ plays. He was obviously great tonight for us.”

The Canucks limited the volume-shooting Hurricanes to just seven shots through 33 minutes, but hung on in the third after J.T. Miller broke a 2-2 tie at 4:00 when Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov misplayed Tyler Myers’ shoot-in. The puck eventually came to Miller in the slot off linemate Brock Boeser and the Canuck swiped it into an open net.

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“Their whole bench was yelling that it was offside, so I didn’t even know if the play was still alive at that point,” Miller said. “I was happy to get a bounce.

“Today was a habits game. It’s easy to come into these games and not have your best; that was a lot of time off. But that was a helluva hockey game. It was a playoff-style game. It says a lot about our preparation; I think it’s really good we had those practices the last two days.”

With six players, including Lindholm, at Saturday’s All-Star Game in Toronto, and half the remaining roster scattered across sunny vacation spots last week, the Canucks reconvened in Raleigh and had lively practices Sunday evening and Monday afternoon.

Tocchet was impressed with the intensity and focus and felt his team was ready, but he couldn’t know for sure until they played. Now he knows.

With no letup in intensity, pace or positional discipline, the Canucks outplayed the Hurricanes for most of the game and earned another in a long string of impressive road victories.

The energy generated by the Lindholm trade would have dissipated had Vancouver been sluggish or sloppy and lost by three. Instead, Tuesday’s game seemed to instantly validate the bold acquisition and reinforce a belief-system for the Canucks that has been revolutionized this season by Tocchet.

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The Canucks’ five-game trip continues Thursday against the Boston Bruins, and this may be the first Vancouver team in a decade that has nothing to fear as it returns to the venue that cost them the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

“This is an important road trip, an important game to kind of show how we’re going to react after eight days,” Hughes said. “We could have come off sluggish and whatnot, especially the way they (Carolina) play at home. So for us to kind of come out and push them after an early goal by them, and then to play a really solid game, I thought that was very strong for us.

“There’s definitely an urgency from the coaching staff and I think from the players also to not take any time here (or) waste any time to get going, and just keep pushing every game. That’s what we did tonight.”

Myers said: “Whatever it was — 10 days between games? — it might be easy to forget the level you have to get to to have success. But I thought we did a great job of getting our legs moving right away. We had a couple of good practices coming into this game here in Carolina. The guys were moving their feet. It was a good hockey game.”

Yet another one.

The Canucks are 34-11-5.

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