Tuesday, December 26, 2006


AP/CP photo -- Jeff McIntosh

The Canucks came back after the Christmas break, but they would have to ratchet their game to a high level quite quickly as the first four games after the break were against the Oilers or Flames, both key divisional opponents. This marked the beginning of a stretch that could possibly make or break the season for the Canucks; doing poorly would bury them pretty deeply and hurt their chances for a playoff spot while doing well would help them get in the thick of the race. Stacked against Vancouver, however, were the fact that they had lost six straight road games and they were 0-7-1 on the road this season against divisional opponents coming into the game. Also, Calgary took a ten-game home-ice win streak into this game. So what would it be for Vancouver? More of the same up and down, topsy-turvy, win-one-lose-one stuff, or would it be the Canucks finally bearing down and putting a run together? As odd as it sounds, this was Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, but with so many divisional games coming up, it was now or never for the Canucks if they were to make a playoff run.

1st period
On a Vancouver power play just past the halfway point of the period, a Sami Salo shot from the blue line was deflected onto the net and stopped, but the rebound went to Miikka Kiprusoff's right, where Lukas Krajicek put a good shot onto the net, but Kiprusoff stopped and covered it. Later in the period, Alex Tanguay had a pass picked off in his own zone, resulting in a Matt Cooke shot from the high slot that Kiprusoff stopped with the left pad. On the Calgary side of things, both Tony Amonte and Dion Phaneuf rang shots off posts behind Roberto Luongo. Shots were nine apiece in the period. Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-1.

2nd period
In the early minutes of the period, Matt Cooke on the right-wing boards set up Trevor Linden in the high slot for a one-timer that was stopped by Kiprusoff. Brendan Morrison was right in front for a chance on the rebound, but Kiprusoff was able to stop that as well. On a Vancouver power play not long after, Kevin Bieksa's shot from the right point was deflected from the slot onto Kiprusoff by Henrik Sedin. Kiprusoff stopped it, but the rebound went way to his right, and Trevor Linden had a wide-open net that he didn't miss.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Trevor Linden 4 (Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa) 5:05
The Canucks tallied again in the final two minutes. Ryan Kesler intercepted a Tanguay pass in his own zone and Daniel Sedin raced the other way with it on a rush. Once in the Calgary zone, Jan Bulis was going to the net on the play and Daniel was trying to set him up, but his pass was broken up by Daymond Langkow. The bad thing for Langkow was that it deflected right back to Daniel, who snapped it past Kiprusoff from just below the right hash.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, Daniel Sedin 11 (Ryan Kesler) 18:29
Vancouver outshot the Flames 13-6 in the period (22-15 overall). They were 1-for-2 (1-for-4) on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-1 (0-for-2).

3rd period
With the Flames trying to regroup in the neutral zone, Taylor Pyatt picked off the puck and dished to Daniel Sedin, who took it into the Calgary zone. Daniel passed to Henrik Sedin mid-slot, who let a hard shot go barely wide of the net on Kiprusoff's glove side. The puck went into the right-wing corner, where Pyatt won the battle and passed to Henrik along the end boards, closer to the net. Henrik backhanded a pass out from to Daniel, who put it past Kiprusoff to get the Canucks a three-goal lead.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, D Sedin 12 (H Sedin, Taylor Pyatt) 10:51
With about six and a half minutes left, the Canucks rushed into the Calgary end and Krajicek's sharpangle shot from the right-wing boards was stopped, as was Josh Green bearing down on the net for the rebound. The Flames got a power play in the final minute of play, but it was much too little too late. Andrew Ference's shot from the blue line was knocked down in the low slot by Chuck Kobasew. The puck trickled to Luongo's right, where David Moss was waiting and banked the puck off something and past Luongo, screwing the latter out of his third shutout of the season. Luongo was bumped on the play, for what that's worth, though this kind of falls on Linden for taking the late penalty.
»» 4, CALGARY, powerplay, David Moss 2 (Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ference) 19:37
Calgary doubled up the Canucks 12-6 on shots in the period, but Vancouver took a 28-27 edge for the game. The Flames were 1-for-4 (1-for-6) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-5). Luongo stopped 26 shots for the game.

Three stars -- (1) Luongo, (2) D Sedin, (3) Calgary's Dion Phaneuf

skater, goals-assists-points
D Sedin 2-0-2
H Sedin 0-2-2
Linden 1-0-1
Bieksa 0-1-1
Kesler 0-1-1
Pyatt 0-1-1

In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 20 of 52 (38%) draws. Brendan Morrison won five of 11, Ryan Kesler won eight of 21, Marc Chouinard won two of six, Henrik Sedin won five of 11, and Jan Bulis lost both of his. Lukas Krajicek led the team with four shots while Sami Salo and Daniel Sedin each had three. Taylor Pyatt, Kesler, Matt Cooke, and Bulis each delivered three hits. Morrison notched five takeaways while Kesler got four. Kevin Bieksa coughed up the puck twice, but blocked four shots. Six Canucks missed the net twice each with shots.

In plus-minus, the only Calgary goal came very late on a power play that unfortunately spoiled Roberto Luongo's shutout, so it's all plus for the Canucks. At plus-1 were Mattias Ohlund, Krajicek, Salo, Pyatt, Kesler, Rory Fitzpatrick, Henrik Sedin, and Bulis. The lone plus-2 was Daniel Sedin, who scored both of the even-strength Vancouver goals. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.

With this win, the Canucks snapped Calgary's ten-game home winning streak as well as their own six-game road losing streak. This was also the Canucks' first divisional road win of the season after nine such games. Their overall record is 18-18-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 37 points. They are tied in points with Calgary, but the Flames have three games in hand, technically still leaving the Canucks in fifth/last place in the Northwest Division. Still, it's a tightly packed division. The Canucks trail all of Colorado, Edmonton (Colorado leads by head-to-head record over Edmonton), and Minnesota (the Wild have played one more game than both the Oilers and Wild) by one point. In the Western Conference, only Nashville and all the Pacific Division teams that aren't Phoenix have played as many or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim is still nuts and leads the West with 62 points. Nashville is second with 53 and Colorado is third. San Jose is fourth with 50 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 47 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 46 (third in the Pacific), Edmonton is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Calgary is ninth, white-hot Chicago is tenth with 37, and Vancouver is eleventh.

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