Friday, December 22, 2006


Reuters photo -- Matt Sullivan

The Canucks were trying to avoid whiffing on all three games of their pre-Christmas road trip and losing six straight road games. A loss in this game would mark their first six-game road losing streak since late in the 1998-99 season. Worse yet, the Canucks didn't exactly want to stumble into their short holiday break; their first four games after the break were against nothing but Edmonton and Calgary, two important divisional opponents. That fact alone and the possible points that could go one way or the other make that upcoming stretch the most important stretch in the Canucks' season to date. But the Canucks still had one game before the break, a date with the fighting Hitchcocks.

1st period
With a Columbus power play just expiring, Anson Carter from the end boards passed to Aaron Johnson near the left point, who let loose on a slap shot that beat Roberto Luongo. Luongo had many bodies in front of him leading up to the goal and pleaded for an interference penalty. Though the goal did go upstairs for video review, the result was upheld, ending Johnson's 28-game goal drought. Luongo banged his stick into the back of the net in frustration after the play. Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Blue Jackets had a season record of 10-1-2 when scoring the first goal of the game.
»» 1, COLUMBUS, Aaron Johnson 1 (Anson Carter, Nikolai Zherdev) 6:36
On another Columbus power play (there were five total in the period) just past the halfway point, Ron Hainsey's wrist shot from the top of the right circle was stopped, but Luongo let the rebound go straight up the slot, where Carter got past the Canuck penalty killers and put the puck through.
»» 2, COLUMBUS, powerplay, Carter 7 (Alexander Svitov, Ron Hainsey) 11:51
Columbus outshot the Canucks 8-7 in the period. They were 1-for-5 on the power play while Vancouver didn't get a power play in the period.

2nd period
Willie Mitchell had a slap shot off the faceoff covered by Pascal Leclaire after a Vancouver faceoff win. Leclaire left the game not long after this as he had sustained a knee injury. Fredrik Norrena took over in goal for Columbus. Norrena would face baptism by fire as he and the Blue Jackets were faced with killing off 1:31 worth of a five-on-three Vancouver advantage. After some cycling up high, Kevin Bieksa passed to Markus Naslund on the goal line to the right side. Naslund skated along the right-wing boards before passing back to Bieksa, who blasted a straightaway one-timer that beat Norrena to put the Canucks on the board. They still had 1:25 left on the power play, but ultimately couldn't score with it or any of the three subsequent power plays they had in the period.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Kevin Bieksa 8 (Markus Naslund, Henrik Sedin) 2:47
With five and a half minutes left to go, a Vancouver turnover turned into a Columbus rush as Nikolai Zherdev left the puck for Alexander Svitov at center ice, who skated it across on the left side and centered to Dan Fritsche barreling down the slot. Fritsche put a shot on the net that Luongo somehow stopped and held onto. Vancouver outshot the Blue Jackets 9-4 (16-12 overall). They were 1-for-5 on the power play while Columbus didn't get a power play chance (1-for-5).

3rd period
A Zherdev tripping minor near the end of the second period left Vancouver with 74 seconds of man-advantage time to start the final period. Kevin Bieksa at the right point wristed the puck toward the net, and Norrena stopped it. Henrik Sedin grabbed the rebound and used his telepathy to pass behind him to Daniel Sedin in front of the right hash. Norrena ended up lying on his side (leaving the top half of the net open) but stopped Daniel's shot nonetheless. Later in the period with some four-on-four play, Vancouver was trying to keep the puck in the attacking zone as it rattled behind the net and out through the other side. Mitchell tried pinching but was unsuccessful, leaving Bieksa back as the only Canuck to face a Columbus two-on-one with Rick Nash and Duvie Westcott. Westcott never actually touched the puck on the play, skating down the left side as Nash skated down the right and whipped a wrister from the right hash that beat Luongo, all but salting away the victory for the Blue Jackets.
»» 4, COLUMBUS, Rick Nash 13 (Sergei Fedorov, Hainsey) 14:39
Alain Vigneault pulled Luongo from the net with over a minute to go in the game in a last-ditch attempt to chip away at a two-goal deficit. Mattias Ohlund at the left point flung the puck toward the net. Daniel Sedin at the left hash marks got a stick on the puck and changed its direction, crossing up Norrena and getting the Canucks within one goal.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Daniel Sedin 10 (Mattias Ohlund, H Sedin) 18:45
It was a frenzy for the Canucks as Luongo was pulled for a sixth attacker, and they had many chances to get the tying goal but came up fruitless. The last fifteen seconds saw the Canucks relentlessly jamming away at the puck down low, with the best chance being Markus Naslund missing from point-blank range, extending his goal drought to 11 games. Vancouver outshot Columbus 17-10 (33-22 total). They didn't get a power play chance, finishing 1-for-5, while Columbus was 0-for-1 (1-for-6). Luongo stopped 19 shots for the game.

Three stars -- (1) Columbus' Anson Carter, (2) Columbus' Rick Nash, (3) Columbus' Aaron Johnson

skater, goals-assists-points
H Sedin 0-2-2
Bieksa 1-0-1
D Sedin 1-0-1
Naslund 0-1-1
Ohlund 0-1-1

In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 39 of 65 draws (60%), unfortunately a stat that doesn't necessarily correlate with the final score. Brendan Morrison won ten of 14, Trevor Linden won three of five, Ryan Kesler won 13 of 19, Josh Green split a pair, Marc Chouinard won one of three, Henrik Sedin won ten of 17, and Jan Bulis lost both of his. Kevin Bieksa led the team with five shots as Daniel Sedin had four and Markus Naslund had three. Mattias Ohlund dished out four hits. Sami Salo blocked a pair of shots. Bieksa missed the net with three shots while Ohlund and Taylor Pyatt missed with a pair each.

It's all ones and evens in the plus-minus department for this one. At minus-1 were Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, Morrison, Willie Mitchell, Green, Chouinard, and Bulis. At plus-1 were Ohlund, Naslund, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.

The loss sent the Canucks home for the Chirstmas break with an 0-3 road trip and their sixth straight road loss. Their overall record dropped to 17-18-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 35 points. They lie in the cellar of the division, three points behind Northwest Division-leading Edmonton, two points behind second-place Calgary, and one point behind both Colorado and Minnesota. Anaheim still leads the Western Conference with 60 points. Nashville is second with 49, and Edmonton is third. San Jose is fourth with 48 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 46 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 44 (third in the Pacific), Calgary is seventh, Colorado is eighth, Minnesota is ninth, and Vancouver is now eleventh as Chicago has a games-in-hand advantage for tenth.

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