Saturday, December 16, 2006
For the second straight game, the Canucks had a team stumble into GM Place with road woes. The Minnesota Wild came in having lost their last six road games, their last road win coming exactly one month before this game. Vancouver was gunning for their fourth straight home win and eighth in ten home games. Minnesota goalie Manny Fernandez came in with a 7-6-1 record against the Canucks, which isn't horribly impressive; it was his former teammate Dwayne Roloson that had the crazy record against Vancouver when he was in Minnesota. Both of those things would be moot in this one as Niklas Backstrom got the call in the Minnesota net. Even after their much-needed win two nights earlier against Calgary, the Canucks still needed to improve upon their still-yucky 3-8-1 record against Northwest Division opponents. Adding that up to the fact that Roberto Luongo had a 1-5-1 (with a tie) career record against Minnesota.
On a late Vancouver power play, the puck cycled from the left-wing boards behind the net, and out to the other side as Henrik Sedin left a pass for twin brother Daniel Sedin on the right side, who passed across the low slot to Trevor Linden. Linden beat Niklas Backstrom over the right shoulder for his first goal in 30 games.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Trevor Linden 2 (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin) 15:30
The Wild outshot Vancouver 9-5 in the period. They were 0-for-2 on the power play while Vancouver was 1-for-3.
The Canucks had a power play just end in the early minutes of the period. Kim Johnsson in the Minnesota zone got hold of an errant puck off the stick of Daniel Sedin. He passed to the Pavol Demitra, who skated in front of the benches and to the right point in the Vancouver zone. Demitra then stopped and fired a slapshot that dipped on its way to the net. Roberto Luongo completely whiffed on the puck with the glove, and the seemingly harmless shot tied the game. For Demitra, the point was his 600th in the NHL.
»» 2, MINNESOTA, Pavol Demitra 7 (Kim Johnsson) 2:29
About two minutes later, Minnesota found themselves on a power play. Demitra flung a puck on the net from the blue line that Luongo stopped, and the rebound chance was nearly put in, but Luongo made a dive to his right to stop it with his arm and deflect it wide. A couple minutes after that, Pascal Dupuis thought he had put a puck under Luongo, though only a play stoppage was called on the ice. Video replay showed the puck went off Luongo's mask and trickled down off him, but no conclusive proof was found that the puck crossed the line, though Luongo may have covered it with his equipment while it was over the line, shielding it from any camera angle. With seven minutes left to go in the period, a Vancouver power play had just ended and a weird bounce in the Minnesota zone sent the puck toward center ice. That's where it met Nick Schultz breaking out of the penalty box, whose quick snap from mid-slot was stopped by Luongo, as was Schultz' attempt on the rebound, that nearly went in off Ohlund's skate and into the net. Luongo covered the shot and was lying on his back when the whistle sounded. Vancouver also killed off an 86-second two-man disadvantage after Jan Bulis and Kevin Bieksa took roughing penalties that were too close together. The Wild badly outshot Vancouver 16-6 in the period (25-11 overall). They were 0-for-3 (0-for-5) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-4).
Five and a half minutes in, the Wild quickly got the puck out of their own zone. Pierre-Marc Bouchard took the puck across the right point and spotted Wes Walz streaking down the slot and dished the puck off to him. Walz got all the way to Luongo and tried a forehand to the glove side, but was held out by Luongo's left pad. On a Vancouver power play about nine minutes in, the first faceoff stayed in the Minnesota zone. The puck went from left point to right point, then along the right-wing boards to Daniel Sedin. Daniel pass to Henrik Sedin on the goal line to the right of the net. Henrik then found Ohlund, who had raced near the slot from the left point. Ohlund got the pass from Daniel and put it under the crossbar above Backstrom's right shoulder.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Mattias Ohlund 5 (H Sedin, D Sedin) 9:04
Backstrom's night was definitely not without some brilliance. With two minutes left, Vancouver got a hold of a loose puck in the Minnesota zone, he stopped a shot by Henrik Sedin from the left hash, and it looked like it bounced as Backstrom finished the play on hands and knees covering the shot. The Wild were outshot 7-4 in the period but had a 29-18 edge for the game. They were 0-for-1 (0-for-6) on the power play while the Canucks were 1-for-2 (2-for-6). Luongo stopped 28 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) D Sedin, (2) H Sedin, (3) Minnesota's Pavol Demitra
D Sedin 0-2-2
H Sedin 0-2-2
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 30 of 60 draws (50%). Brendan Morrison won eight of 18, Ryan Kesler won seven of 15, Marc Chouinard won four of ten, and Henrik Sedin won nine of 15. Mattias Ohlund and Morrison led the team with four shots apiece and Matt Cooke had two. Jan Bulis dished out five hits and Cooke delivered four, along with two takeaways. Kevin Bieksa blocked four shots while Willie Mitchell, Alexandre Burrows, and Kesler blocked two each. Markus Naslund and Henrik Sedin missed the net with three shots apiece.
The Canucks tallied both of their goals on the power play and gave up an even-strength goal, so the plus list is nonexistent and the minus list is short. Bieksa, Mitchell, Daniel Sedin, Cooke, and Henrik Sedin were minus-1. All other Canuck skaters were even.
The win made it a 3-0 homestand for the Canucks, leapfrogging them over Minnesota and lifting their division record to a less pathetic 4-8-1. It pushed their overall record to 17-15-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 35 points and third place in the Northwest Division. They lie a mere one point back of first-place Edmonton, and have the same number of points as Calgary, but the Flames have three games in hand. They are one-point behind fourth-place Colorado and last-place Minnesota (Colorado has the head-to-head edge). As is still the case in the Western Conference, the only teams to have played as many or more games than Vancouver are all teams in the Pacific Division that aren't Phoenix. Anaheim still is running away with the West with 56 points. Nashville is second with 45. Edmonton is third. San Jose is fourth with 48 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 42 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 42 (more games played than Detroit and third in the Pacific), Calgary is seventh, Vancouver is eighth, Colorado is ninth, and Minnesota is tenth.