Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Saint Louis game was a must-win for the Canucks, from most accounts. They had to prove to themselves they could score, and dag nabbit if they didn't score four goals in the process. They had gone eight straight games without scoring more than two goals in a game. Moreover, the win against Saint Louis gave them one last chance to salvage a .500 record from a six-game homestand that started out 1-3. While the Chicago Blackhawks were a bit banged up coming into the game, their all-world goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was not. The Canucks would have to solve him to get the win. They could take the momentum of a two-game win streak into a three-game road trip, and that wouldn't be an easy one either, one which would take them to Detroit, Nashville, and Denver for three games in four nights. First, however, would be the matchup with the once-proud Chicago Blackhawks, bogged down in recent years by inept ownership.
An early power play about three minutes in saw Patrick Coulombe's shot from the right hash hit the post, and the subsequent rebound went to Henrik Sedin at the goal line on the right side, who hit the post as well. Chicago nearly cleared the puck, but Sami Salo held it in at the right point. He centered to Daniel Sedin on the doorstep, whose shot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, but Markus Naslund was right there to lift the rebound above Khabibulin and into the net.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Markus Naslund 10 (Daniel Sedin, Sami Salo) 2:46
Just under five minutes later, a puck that was cleared into the neutral zone was run down by Salo, who skated into the high slot but had his shot stopped by the stick of Khabibulin. Past the halfway point, a loose puck in the left-wing corner found its way to Radim Vrbata, who passed from the boards to Tuomo Ruutu, whose mondo wrist shot put the puck past Roberto Luongo.
»» 2, CHICAGO, Tuomo Ruutu 3 (Radim Vrbata) 10:41
With just under six minutes remaining, Jan Bulis along the left-wing boards in the Chicago zone put a shoulder into Ruutu, sending him to the ice. Vancouver outshot the Blackhawks 12-7 in the period. They were 1-for-1 on the power play while Chicago was 0-for-1.
With Chicago on a delayed penalty, a Salo straightaway slap shot from the blue line was blocked by James Wisniewski, and right beforehand, Jassen Cullimore lost his stick. Henrik Sedin got the rebound along the left-wing boards and he passed off to Trevor Linden, who found Patrick Coulombe near the right hash. Coulombe's wrister was stopped by Khabibulin, but the rebound was short and Josh Green got to it right away, putting it over Khabibulin and into the net.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Josh Green 1 (Patrick Coulombe, Trevor Linden) 6:47
A minute and a half later, Chicago was going to get called for another delayed penalty, and the Canucks got another chance. Henrik Sedin from the end boards centered to Kevin Bieksa, who had his shot stopped before Chicago got control of the puck to stop play. With about five minutes to go, former Canuck Adrian Aucoin's shot from the left point was stopped by Luongo. The puck went to the left-wing corner, and Jeffrey Hamilton skated it back out to the left point. He passed to Patrick Sharp in the left-wing corner, who had no Canuck defenders within ten feet of him and took a clear path to the net, but Luongo stopped his shot and the rebound was cleared to the other corner. Vancouver outshot Chicago 15-10 in the period (27-17 overall). They were 0-for-2 (1-for-3) on the power play, and so was Chicago (0-for-3).
About four minutes in, Jan Bulis rushed up the right side and centered mid-slot as he was falling down, and Brendan Morrison shot and was stopped by Khabibulin, as was Matt Cooke, who was foiled on the rebound. Roughly two minutes later, Jim Vandermeer and Taylor Pyatt engaged in a fiery tilt that got both teams and the crowd going. Vandermeer got an extra two minutes for holding the stick before he dropped the gloves. On a power play halfway through the period, Patrick Coulombe got a centering pass in the slot and whipped a backhand toward the net that was stopped, and Daniel Sedin was robbed up high by Khabibulin on the rebound. With seven and a half to go, Ruutu snuck a wrister through to Luongo that was stopped by the left pad. With two minutes left, Bulis rushed across center on the left side and passed to Morrison in the high slot, who whiffed on a shot attempt before getting one off, but he too was stopped by Khabibulin. Chicago got the benefit of a tripping penalty to Salo with one minute left, and they pulled Khabibulin for a six-on-four attack. The Canuck penalty killers, however, were their usual selves. Vancouver outshot Chicago 12-6 in the period (39-23 total). They again were 0-for-2 on the power play (1-for-5) and so was Chicago (0-for-5). Luongo stopped 22 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin, (2) Naslund, (3) Salo
D Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 31 of 54 draws (57%). Brendan Morrison won two of three, Ryan Kesler won three of ten, Marc Chouinard won four of ten, Henrik Sedin won an incredible 18 of 23, and Jan Bulis won four of seven. Markus Naslund led the team with six shots, and Matt Cooke and Patrick Coulombe had four each. Josh Green dished out three hits. Naslund notched two takeaways. Mattias Ohlund and Kesler blocked a trio of shots each, and Willie Mitchell blocked a pair. Lukas Krajicek and Sami Salo coughed up the puck twice each. Ohlund and Coulombe missed the net with a pair of shots apiece.
On plus-minus, the plus-skating Canucks (all plus-1) were Salo, Trevor Linden, Green, Coulombe, Chouinard, and Henrik Sedin. Minus-skating Canucks (all minus-1) were Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Morrison, Cooke, and Bulis. All other Canuck skaters were even.
The win marked only the second time this season in which the Canucks won consecutive games. They are now 10-10-1 (3-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 21 points. In the West, only San Jose and Anaheim have played the same amount of games as Vancouver. All other teams in the West have played less games. The Canucks trail Northwest Division-leading Minnesota by four points and second-place Edmonton by two points. Vancouver is third in the division, leading Calgary and Colorado each by one point. Vancouver is eighth in the West. Anaheim leads the conference with 33 points, Nashville is second with 26, Minnesota is third, San Jose is fourth with 30 (trailing Anaheim in their division), Dallas is fifth with 26 (trailing Anaheim and San Jose in their division), Detroit is sixth with 26 (Nashville has a game in hand in their division), and Edmonton is seventh. Calgary is ninth and Colorado is tenth.