With a death watch on coach John Tortorella’s tenure behind the Vancouver Canucks’ bench, and the buzzards circling, every game down the stretch will be a referendum of sorts on Torts.

Did the Canucks compete? Did they look a team with a plan? Did they look like a team that cared? And, oh, did they win?

Let’s get to the last part first. They won, beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in a shootout here Wednesday on a slick Chris Higgins’ forehand deke. They had to twice battle from behind and the result moved them one point clear of the Jets in the Western Conference standings and to within four of the Dallas Stars, who hold down the eighth and final coveted playoff spot.

The Canucks still sit 10th and everybody in the hunt holds games in hand on them. They have just 14 left so, really, that’s not terribly promising.

It also appears they will have to soldier on without the services of thoroughbred centre Ryan Kesler, who is being sent back to Vancouver for an MRI after taking a knee-on-knee hit from the Jets’ Jim Slater late in the second period.

The Canucks did compete, however, and avoided another third-period meltdown despite giving up 16 shots. Eddie Lack had a solid rebound game between the pipes and Alex Burrows — yes, Alex Burrows! — scored twice, his first and second of the season. He had gone a mind-boggling 35 games without a goal.

“It was one of those nights where the puck was finding me around the net,” said a relieved Burrows. “I had a lot of chances. Honestly, I think I could have had four. The reaction from the guys after the first one was funny. I know they’ve been pulling for me for a long time and they want the best for me and it was nice to see them react that way.

“It’s always tough when you don’t score, especially for that long. I never experienced something like that. It’s tough to put into words. You feel like you’re letting the guys down and letting the team down. I need to step up my game to help them out. We know these points are important for us.”

Burrows disputed the notion the players have given up, are mailing it in and just want this miserable season to end. Wednesday’s victory was only their third in the last 15 games.