Canucks Picking Up Momentum in Pacific : Hockey: After a rough first quarter of the season, Vancouver and Mogilny are making things difficult for division foes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two seasons removed from the Stanley Cup Finals, the Vancouver Canucks are still a chore to figure out.

Pegged as one of the top teams in the Pacific Division, they flopped and foundered after Pavel Bure blew out his right knee Nov. 9. That made sense, considering Bure has been one of the NHL's top offensive stars.

But with a 6-2 victory over the Mighty Ducks Friday at The Pond, the Canucks improved to 6-1-3 in their past 10 games. They also reached the .500 mark for the first time since Bure's injury, when they were 5-5-5.

Without Bure? Without Esa Tikkanen, Mike Ridley, Gino Odjick, Jassen Cullimore and Dave Babych, who are all injured too?

Now, the Canucks are winning when common sense says they should be losing.

Vancouver regrouped, leaning heavily on Alexander Mogilny over the past 10 games. Smart move, and as it turned out, about all the Canucks had left. Mogilny, obtained from Buffalo in the off-season, had been expected to give the Canucks a superb one-two offensive punch with Bure.

Friday, they fashioned a victory over the Ducks by combining a bit of luck and a bit of hard work.

And then there was Mogilny, who turned a tight game into a runaway with a hat trick over the course of the game's final 3 minutes 15 seconds.

First, he slammed an innocent-looking slap shot that Duck goaltender Mikhail Shtalenkov seemed capable of handling easily. But the puck slipped between Shtalenkov's pads and into the net.

Vancouver had a 3-2 lead with 3:15 left; the Ducks had nothing left.

A little more than a minute later, Josef Beranek scored for a 4-2 Canuck lead.

Then Mogilny scored with 34 seconds left.

Then Mogilny scored with 20 seconds left.

Hats hit the ice and Duck fans among the 17,174 hit the exits.

A taut game suddenly turned to a rout because the frustrated Ducks kept losing track of Mogilny. It was bound to happen, Ley said later.

"He's a terrific hockey player," Ley said. "He knows where the holes are and is dangerous when he gets behind you."

By game's end, Mogilny had extended his recent hot streak to eight goals in the past 10 games. He might have scored twice more, but Shtalenkov stopped him on two earlier breakaways.

It was a tremendous, and much needed, outburst.

Someone later asked Brian Loney, who scored the Canucks' second goal, about missing Bure.

"He's definitely a great player, but you have to face facts: everyone is going to have to chip in," Loney said. "Everyone has been doing that the last four to five games."

It also helps to have Mogilny patrolling the ice, exploiting any and all weaknesses.

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