Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Going South, Canucks Take Road Map Back to `W'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Going South, Canucks Take Road Map Back to `W'

Article excerpt

A little dinner, a little togetherness and all of a sudden, the Vancouver Canucks look a little more like themselves.

"Tonight, we were more like a team," forward Sergio Momesso said. "We played like we did when we were in the finals."

It seems the Canucks momentarily lost the map that guided their way to the seventh game of the National Hockey League championship series against New York last season.

The big team with the big heart was like a babe lost in the woods. The Canucks started last season with a 7-1-0 mark, the best in franchise history. But this season, they were winless in their first four games.

Ready-made alibis were available. Rick Lee, an assistant for three seasons, succeeded Pat Quinn as head coach for 1995. But Lee was suspended by the league for the Canucks' first three games, as a result of a preseason incident.

The season started abruptly and Vancouver, which might be the largest team in the league, might have needed more time to find its skating legs. But the bottom line, to those involved, is considerably less convenient.

"Sometimes, our team wants to put on a show instead of playing hockey," Vancouver center and ex-Blue Cliff Ronning said. "This is the first time we came out and played like a team."

Ronning helped spark the Canucks to a 3-1 victory over the Blues on Saturday with an unassisted goal in the first period. The Blues routed the Canucks 7-1 last week in Vancouver.Ci

"We weren't ready," Ronning said. "We were still thinking we had made it to the Stanley Cup finals instead of thinking about what we have to do to get there."

Enough was enough. After losing 6-2 to Toronto last Wednesday, the players got together and went out to dinner.

"We weren't together as a team," Momesso said. "We talked about some things and rededicated ourselves, and sometimes those things help. We came out and played better tonight."

Critical to the transformation was the play of goaltender Kirk McLean. The veteran with the stand-up style made 35 saves, turning away discs as if he were flipping pancakes. …

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