One night after their worse loss since opening weekend, the Vancouver Giants took advantage of a wounded opponent.
Smarting after a 6-2 loss the night before in Kamloops to the Blazers, the Giants erased the sting of that defeat with a 6-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre in Western Hockey League action.
Vancouver scored four times in the first period to chase Rockets goalie James Porter and that was more than enough offence as David Tendeck made 26 saves against a Kelowna team missing its top two scorers.
“We let our foot off the gas (yesterday) and had a nice bounce back today,” said Giants captain Tyler Benson, listing the fact his team played with energy, won more than their share of battles and got puck deeps.
Vancouver sits at 10-9-2-2 and their 24 points pull them within three of the second-place Rockets (12-7-2-1) in the B.C. Division.
And of Vancouver’s 13 combined losses, all have been by one goal except for the first two to start the season and then Friday’s night’s defeat in Kamloops.
A major problem in the most recent loss was a less-than stellar penalty kick as Kamloops scored five times on their power play.
A big way in correcting the penalty kill is not to let the opponent get many chances and the Rockets only had three power-play opportunities. Their lone goal came courtesy of Marek Skvrne on a rebound 6:18 into the third period. But by that time, the Giants were already up 5-0.
Saturday’s contest wasn’t about X’s and O’s but about the nuts and bolts of the game, said Vancouver coach Jason McKee.
“I liked our energy level and our compete level was much better,” he said.
McKee said his team reverted to their early season struggles where they were taking too many — and unnecessary — penalties.
“The stick infractions weren’t there and they are calling those, just like the NHL,” he said.
“We have to adjust and take that extra stride or two rather than reach in with our stick.”
It would be the Giants taking advantage on the power play in Saturday’s game.
With the Rockets two men down, Dylan Plouffe drew the defenders to one side and then sent the puck across to Brad Morrison for a one-time to open the scoring. James Malm then set Benson up for another power-play goal for the back-half of the two-man advantage.
The Rockets would get a few chances following that but Ty Ronning extended his goal-scoring streak to 10 games as he waited out a sliding defender and then went post and in for his 23rd goal of the season.
And before the period let out, Tyler Popowich completed a nice passing play with Brayden Watts for a tap-in in the final minute.
Kelowna would change goalies at intermission with Roman Basran entering the crease. But Malm would greet him with an early goal 1:32 in, getting the puck in tight and maneuvering the puck to his forehand and tucking him home.
The final goal came on a delayed penalty with less than five minutes to play as Benson scored from a bad angle. It was set up by Malm as both he and Benson finished with three points apiece.
Tendeck finished with 26 saves and also faced a third-period penalty shot, which Kyle Topping sent wide.
The goaltender has now allowed two goals or less in his last three starts. The four games before that saw him surrender a combined 20 goals.
“Just sticking to the plan, keep on battling, keep on marching and doing all the right things and things are starting to go my way,” he said.
Vancouver’s power play now has goals in six straight games, going 12-for-24 over that span. Not coincidentally, the team is 4-1-1-0 in those games. Prior to that, the Giants were a putrid 7-for-65 with the man advantage (10.8 per cent).
“It has definitely been big for us, it has given us a chance to win,” Benson said of the power play.
Vancouver is back in action on Nov. 22 when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the LEC. Game time is 7 p.m.