San Jose Sharks\' goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, sprays water on his face during a stoppage in play against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday January 21, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
VANCOUVER - He might not get the ice time as other top rookies in the league, but Cody Hodgson is making the most of the opportunities that do come his way.
The 21-year-old centre had his first two-goal game in the NHL on Saturday, including the winner with 4:17 remaining, to help the Vancouver Canucks snap a two-game winless streak with a wild 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Hodgson's late tally, which capped off an outburst that saw the Canucks score twice and the Sharks once in a 1:32 span, was actually a pass to teammate Mason Raymond from behind the goal line. It caromed off of Sharks forward Michal Handzus's stick and behind a surprised Antti Niemi.
"Everybody wants to contribute and do well," Hodgson said with his aw-shucks attitude. "It doesn’t matter who gets the goals on the team, we just want to play well and come out with a win."
Hodgson's strong play has him sitting fourth in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 29 points -- six points behind injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Edmonton -- despite the fact he averages 12:39 of ice time per contest. No other rookie in the top 20 of rookie scoring -- except Philadelphia's Sean Couturier with 12:31 of ice time -- has played less.
Hodgson also has 14 points (7-7) in his past 16 games.
"When he's on the ice there you're hearing more and more compliments on the bench of guys talking about him," said teammate Kevin Bieksa. "It's nice to see him playing like this and he's helping the team win."
Ryan Kesler and David Booth also scored on Saturday as Vancouver (29-15-4) improved to 1-1-1 on its six-game home stand.
Logan Couture, with his 19th and 20th, and Dan Boyle replied for the Sharks (26-14-5), who were without top-six forwards Martin Havlat (hamstring) and Ryane Clowe (facial injury).
“After last year, putting us out in the playoffs, you never like to lose to these guys," said Couture. "It fires me up and it fires up a bunch of guys in the room so it’s frustrating we couldn’t win this one tonight.
With the teams deadlocked 2-2 late, all heck broke loose.
Kesler made it 3-2 Canucks with 5:49 remaining, snapping up the puck at his own blue line, streaking down the ice on a 2-on-1 and beating Niemi with a high glove shot for his 13th goal of the season.
Kesler, who was mildly criticized by coach Alain Vigneault last week for not using his linemates enough, said he thought about passing but couldn't settle the puck down.
"It looks like the coach really sparked him there with those comments," Bieksa chuckled. "Vintage Kes is back, a great goal by Kesler."
Boyle responded 36 seconds later, charging hard to the net and backhanding his own rebound past Roberto Luongo.
The teams seemed destined for their third straight extra time game against each other; Vancouver won the first in overtime and the Sharks responded with a shootout win, both by 3-2 counts.
Overall Vancouver won the season series with three victories in four games.
It seems they play their hardest against their most bitter rivals.
"You have to play your best when you're playing the best teams," said Kesler. "We have a good rivalry against those guys and we've got to be ready to play those guys every time."
The teams were tied 2-2 after two periods, but the score flattered San Jose considering they mustered just seven shots through the first 30 minutes.
Couture gave San Jose a 2-1 lead on a power play early in the second period, taking a pass and quickly backhanding the puck short side behind Luongo.
Hodgson got that back three minutes later, going to the net off a faceoff and backhanding a Raymond rebound into the open net.
Booth on a neat deflection and Couture on a short-handed breakaway had the first-period goals.
Couture, runner up for rookie of the year last season, seemed like the only Shark to show up in the first half of the game.
"It was interesting to see both Cody Hodgson and Logan Couture as young, dynamic players in the game," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. "The Sedins and the Jumbos (Joe Thornton) and the Marleaus are still very dominant and they have a ton of skill and are fun to watch, but those two young guys stole the show tonight."
NOTES: Vancouver went 0-4 with two shots on goal in four power play opportunities, and gave up a short-handed goal. ...The Canucks improved to 6-0 in games after two straight losses. ... Canucks D Chris Tanev played his first game of the season, while Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer were healthy scratches. ... Sharks D Jason Demers was a healthy scratch. ... Since McLellan became coach of the Sharks at the start of the 2008-09 season, San Jose has the league's best regular-season record with a .676 winning percentage. ... No player in the NHL has more points than Joe Thornton since his debut in 1997 (1,038 including Saturday's game). He has 37 points in 45 games this season.