Canucks captain leads the way

Markus Naslund showed heart, talent and great instincts against the lowly Penguins.

Updated: December 10, 2003, 2:08 PM ET
By By Jim Wilkie | NHL Insider
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Thursday night's highly anticipated game against the Colorado Avalanche will be one of the first measuring sticks for the Canucks, but Vancouver captain Markus Naslund provided an unexpected benchmark Tuesday night with all four goals in his team's 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Markus Naslund
Markus Naslund is primed and ready for Colorado.
Naslund's decision to return from a pulled groin after missing Saturday's 1-1 tie with Minnesota and the third period of a 4-1 loss to Calgary on Thursday caused many in the anxious city to hold their breath before the Pittsburgh game. Sports radio shows were full of worried Canucks fans and media members questioning Naslund's decision to play against the last-place Penguins, especially when Northwest Division rival Colorado was up next.

The conventional wisdom was against risking a longer-term injury against a cupcake opponent with still more than 50 games left in the season. But after a strong practice Monday and the early skate Tuesday morning, Naslund felt he was ready to go. Fortunately for the Canucks (15-7-4-2), Naslund gave a better diagnosis than thousands of armchair trainers because the lowly Penguins didn't play like cupcakes at GM Place.