EDMONTON – Raffi Torres’s best days came as an Edmonton Oiler.
He had his finest game as a Vancouver Canuck on Tuesday.
Torres netted his first career hat trick in the Canucks’ 4-3 victory over the Oilers at Rexall Place. The 29-year-old Toronto native now has six goals in 11 games — his best output to start a season since junior — to sit second behind Daniel Sedin in team scoring. His third period goal was his second-straight game-winner.
Okay, that’s enough praise. Time to move on. For everyone’s benefit.
“Don’t remind me — the more I can forget about it and not be told how good I was the better,” said Torres, offering a refreshing bit of candour following the game. “That’s my problem, when I’m on a high I keep thinking this is going to happen all the time. I tend to forget that you need to work to make it happen.”
It wasn’t three months ago Torres was out of work, sitting by the phone just hoping for an offer. This after scoring 19 goals in 60 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. Of course, there’s that little thing about laying an egg with the Buffalo Sabres, who acquired the 6-0, 215-pound wrecking ball at the trade deadline. He was a healthy scratch for the team’s final two playoff games.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” explained Torres, who signed a one-year, $1-million deal with Vancouver in August. “You can’t get too comfortable in this game. I thought I had a pretty good season last year and look at the summer I had. It was kind of tough for me and my family. I was very fortunate I got to come to Vancouver, but at the end of the day it’s only 10-11 games — I have to keep working, keep putting my hard hat on and going out and playing.”
Torres is five-years removed from his 27-goal season with the Oilers, which just so happened to coincide with Edmonton coming one game shy of winning the Stanley Cup. He signed a three-year, $6.75-million extension one year later, but injuries limited him to five goals in 32 games in 2007-08. He was traded to Columbus the next year, where injuries again played a part in his pedestrian 12 goals in 51 games.
“We’re seeing the Raffi we know he’s capable of being, but more than getting the goals he’s playing a real solid game,” said Manny Malhotra, who centres a line with Torres and was a teammate of his that first year in Columbus. “He’s doing the things that a power forward does. He holds on to pucks down low, gets in on the forecheck and constantly hits. … The goals are the icing on the cake.”
Torres’s game-winner came at 10:53 of the third period and tilted the rink back in the visitors’ favour after Edmonton had fought back from a three-goal deficit after the first period. On the play, Torres lobbed a weak back-hand on net and looked to be heading toward the bench on a change when the puck somehow made its way past the outstretched pad of a stunned Nikolai Khabibulin.
His first two weren’t quite as lucky. Torres simply out-hustled Oilers defenceman Theo Peckham to a rebound off the end boards on the first, while on the second he deflected a Kevin Bieksa point shot on the power play to give Vancouver what seemed at the time like an insurmountable lead.
Bieksa recorded an assist on all three of Torres’s goals to give him 100 on his career. He entered the game pointless through the first 10 games of the season.
Alex Burrows, making his first return since off-season shoulder surgery, looked good with the Sedins despite the layoff. Burrows took Jeff Tambellini’s place in the lineup after the Port Moody native was sent to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose earlier in the day.
Roberto Luongo recorded the win, the first on the road for Vancouver, who play six of their next seven away from Rogers Arena. The Canucks entered the game the only National Hockey League team without a road victory and will be looking to make it two in a row against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Vancouver is in the midst of a four-game win streak, dating back to Oct. 22.
“We were a little bit unfortunate so far on the road – I think we’ve played a little better than our record indicated,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, whose team was just 24 hours removed from a 3-0 home win over the New Jersey Devils. “Back-to-back games and we knew we had a real strong opponent coming off a big win against Chicago, so we wanted to play a good game and I think we did.”
No one more so than Torres. Just don’t remind him any time soon.
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