Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Reuters photo -- Eric Miller

Three nights earlier, the Canucks came up with a much-needed win against the Minnesota Wild. With the circumstances that played out in the days since, a win in this game could have meant the top spot in the Northwest Division. Contrary to some pregame rumblings, defenseman Sami Salo ended up sitting out for a sixth straight game with a bum shoulder. Helping out the Canucks, however was the fact that the Wild had only one regulation win in the previous 20 games. Not good for the Canucks, however, was Minnesota's home record, which sat at 12-3-1. This game was also the first of a three-games-in-four-nights jaunt that also saw the Canucks traveling to Boston and Columbus.

1st period
Early in the period, Nick Schultz fished the puck out from his own end boards and passed to Pavol Demitra, who skated across center ice and fired a slap shot from just inside the Vancouver blue line that handcuffed Roberto Luongo. It hadn't happened in a while, but Luongo had just given up a goal on the first shot of the game. Oddly, Demitra had beaten Luongo with another long slap shot three nights earlier in Vancouver.
»» 1, MINNESOTA, Pavol Demitra 8 (Mikko Koivu, Nick Schultz) 1:47
Vancouver outshot the Wild 9-6 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.

2nd period
Kevin Bieksa had lost the puck coming out of his own zone, as did Willie Mitchell. Pierre-Marc Bouchard skated from the right-wing boards and snapped a puck toward the net from the right hash that was stopped (Luongo couldn't cover), but Brian Rolston followed up on the rebound skating right to left in front of the net and waited for Luongo to go down. Rolston had a wide open net on the stick side on which he didn't miss.
»» 2, MINNESOTA, Brian Rolston 16 (Pierre-Marc Bouchard) 2:01
Todd White had a centering pass in the Vancouver end leak through and go rink-wide, where Trevor Linden ran it down and skated to center, where he passed to Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt was bumped off the puck near the right-wing corner, but got it back. He skated along the right-wing boards before passing to Linden in the high slot, who snapped the puck through a Ryan Kesler screen in front, but more importantly it got through high on the glove side past Manny Fernandez.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Trevor Linden 3 (Taylor Pyatt) 6:50
Late in the period just after Vancouver had allowed a shorthanded breakaway, the puck was innocently in the Minnesota zone when Keith Carney spotted Todd White darting across center ice splitting and getting past the Vancouver defense. White eventually was caught in the high slot and lost the puck, but Branko Radivojevic was right behind him and picked up the puck, then slapped it past Luongo.
»» 4, MINNESOTA, Branko Radivojevic 4 (Todd White, Keith Carney) 17:12
On a Minnesota power play in the final minute, Demitra centered to White in the slot, who tried tipping it on goal, but Luongo came up with it and held on for the whistle. Minnesota outshot the Canucks 11-7 in the period (17-16 overall). Both teams again were 0-for-1 on the power play (0-for-2).

3rd period
After Vancouver blew multiple clearing attempts in their own zone, Keith Carney held the puck in at the left point and passed along the boards to Rolston, who took it on the end boards. Rolston found White all alone at the left hash, and White fired a shot that beat Luongo on the far side, though it was deflected on the way through by Mark Parrish, evidently.
»» 5, MINNESOTA, Mark Parrish 9 (White, Rolston) 6:52
The Canucks got a much-needed two-man advantage that seemed like too little too late even at the time. Bieksa at the right point dished to Henrik Sedin up high, and the two criss-crossed along the blue line. Henrik stickhandled straight away, then passed to Bieksa near the left point. Instead of firing off the usual one-timer, Bieksa instead took the puck off his skate and drifted a couple feet back before simply wristing the puck toward the net, but somehow it got through on Fernandez.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Kevin Bieksa 7 (Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund) 15:17
The killer goal in the game had early come much earlier than this, but Canuck coack Alain Vigneault nonetheless pulled Luongo from the net with just over two minutes left in regulation. That all backfired with one last Vancouver defensive turnover, which ended up on the stick of Koivu, who passed to Radivojevic skating across center. He hit the empty net from the red line.
»» 7, MINNESOTA, emptynet, Radivojevic 5 (Koivu) 18:04
Minnesota outshot Vancouver 10-6 in the period (27-22 total). They were 0-for-2 (0-for-4) on the power play while Vancouver was 1-for-2 (1-for-4). Luongo stopped 22 shots for the game.

Three stars -- (1) Minnesota's Brian Rolston, (2) Minnesota's Keith Carney, (3) Minnesota's Todd White

skater, goals-assists-points
Bieksa 1-0-1
Linden 1-0-1
Naslund 0-1-1
Pyatt 0-1-1
H Sedin 0-1-1

In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 30 of 57 draws (53%). Brendan Morrison won eight of 17, Trevor Linden lost both of his, Ryan Kesler won ten of 17, Marc Chouinard won five of 12, and Henrik Sedin won seven of eight. Matt Cooke and Yannick Tremblay led the team with three shots apiece. Markus Naslund coughed up the puck twice. Lukas Krajicek and Willie Mitchell blocked a pair of shots apiece. Tremblay missed the net with three shots, and four other Canucks missed twice each.

There was no happiness in plus-minus on this night as no Canuck came away with a plus rating. At minus-1 were Kevin Bieksa, Mitchell, Taylor Pyatt, Alexandre Burrows, Kesler, Rory Fitzpatrick, Tremblay, Henrik Sedin, and Jan Bulis. At minus-2 were Mattias Ohlund, Krajicek, Morrison, and Naslund. The lone minus-4 was Cooke. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.

Other than dropping the Canucks' division record to a brutal 4-9-1, it also dropped their overall record to 17-16-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), tumbling them all the way from third in the division to fifth/last with their 35 points. They are two points behind Northwest Division-leading Calgary and one point behind all of second-place Edmonton, third-place Minnesota (Edmonton won the only meeting between the Oilers and Wild), and fourth-place Colorado (more games played than the other two teams). Aanheim is still running away with the West with 58 points. Nashville is second with 47 points, and Calgary 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 (third in the Pacific, one more game played than Detroit), Edmonton is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Colorado is ninth, and Vancouver is tenth.

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