Ryan entered the joint NHL/NHLPA assistance program on Nov. 20 after admitting to having a problem with alcohol. He last played at home on Nov. 15.
Fans were quick to cheer Ryan, giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name.
“I knew Ottawa being the community that it is that the reception would be good,” Ryan said. “It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game. It was incredible. They supported me and I got to contribute. You can’t write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening, so thank you to all of them.”
Ryan credited his wife, Danielle, for helping him get to this point and said she also deserved the first star.
“To have her support and not just have her support as a hockey player, but as a husband and everything it just means a ton,” he said.
Vancouver coach Travis Green also appreciated what Ryan did, even if it was at the expense of the Canucks.
“You don’t ever like to lose or see other players score on you, but it was obvious by the reaction of the crowd, and there’s still that human element in the game that when guys go through tough things or battle through things,” Green said. “It was just good to see him back out there playing.”
Vancouver missed out on an opportunity to gain ground in the Pacific Division as they played the second of a four-game trip (1-1-0).
Leading 2-1 at the start of the third period, the Senators regained their two-goal lead just 14 seconds in as Ottawa won the opening faceoff and took control offensively.
Balcers scored when he picked up a Chris Tierney rebound. Brown hit the 40-point mark (14 goals and 26 assists) for the first time in his career with an assist on the play.
The Canucks made it a one-goal game as Toffoli tipped Miller’s point shot midway through the period, but Ryan scored his second of the game with just over two minutes remaining and then added an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick.