Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Reuters photo -- Andy Clark

After their biggest win of the season the night before in Calgary, the Canucks came back home to face the same team. A loss would flag most of the momentum from the huge win in Calgary. A win, however, would not only be big, but it would be all but necessary to keep their playoff hopes alive in a tough Northwest Division. People like to call these divisional games four-point games, and it's true. Though only two (or three) points are awarded in these games, the swing is four points. When you're in the same division, the games mean a lot more. A win in this one wouldn't just mean that they beat the Calgary Flames twice in two nights, it would also mean Calgary didn't win on consecutive nights, which is just as important. The Sedins worked their magic in Calgary, but who would supply the magic for this game?

1st period
On a very early Vancouver power play, Brendan Morrison at the left point passed all the way down to Jan Bulis down low, who one-timed the puck off the base of the post. Though the puck was never covered by Miikka Kiprusoff, the nearby referee whistled the play dead after losing sight of the puck. Still, the Canucks would end up making good later in the same power play. Mattias Ohlund at the left point passed to Kevin Bieksa also at the blue line. Bieksa flung the puck toward the goal and it was deflected off Andrew Ference and onto the net, then trickled through Kiprusoff, but off the base of his stick-side post and out. That's where Daniel Sedin skated to fetch the rebound and put it into the back of the net.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Daniel Sedin 13 (Kevin Bieksa, Mattias Ohlund) 2:32
The Canucks won a faceoff in their own zone, wound the puck behind their own net, and quickly took it the other way. The puck went off Taylor Pyatt as it came out of the Vancouver zone and Daniel Sedin took it across center with Henrik Sedin as a two-on-one was developing. Daniel skated down the right side and got the pass past Rhett Warrener and through to Henrik skating on the left, who easily tipped the puck past Kiprusoff.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, Henrik Sedin 5 (D Sedin, Taylor Pyatt) 13:39
Vancouver badly outshot Calgary 15-8 in the period. They were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Flames were 0-for-3.

2nd period
A regular puck into the neutral zone turned into a two-on-one from the blue line to the net for Calgary as Josh Green was late racing off the bench, Mattias Ohlund got caught at the blue line, and Yannick Tremblay was the last man back and didn't read the play quite well enough. Tony Amonte just past the right point dished off to Byron Ritchie skating into the Vancouver zone. Ritchie wristed it past Roberto Luongo for Calgary's first tally of the game.
»» 3, CALGARY, Byron Ritchie 3 (Tony Amonte, Mark Giordano) 8:55
Just 65 seconds later, Calgary tallied again after a bad Markus Naslund pass that was picked off. Later in the play, Jarome Iginla skated down the left side and passed quickly to Daymond Langkow in front, who tried beating Luongo low to the stick side, but Luongo made a right toe save. The rebound trickled out to the left hash, where Robyn Regehr skated untouched and unloaded a slap shot that Luongo stopped as well, but the third time would prove to be a charm for the Flames as the rebound of the Regehr shot went to Luongo's right, where Kristian Huselius was near the goal line and put it through on a very sharp angle. The goal made Calgary a plus-18 team in five-on-five play.
»» 4, CALGARY, Kristian Huselius 12 (Robyn Regehr, Daymond Langkow) 10:00
The Canucks won a battle for the puck in their own zone and once they finally cleared their zone, Matt Cooke took the puck and broke to the open ice on the right side, putting a quick backhander -- the first Canuck shot of the period -- past Kiprusoff to stake the Canucks out to a lead once again.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Matt Cooke 2 (Trevor Linden, Ohlund) 14:09
Vancouver needed a first to expand on their lead. Huselius coughed up the puck near the Vancouver net and Kevin Bieksa rattled it down the boards on the left side, where Mark Giordano failed to hold it in the Vancouver zone, having it go off of him and right to Cooke, who skated into the Calgary zone on a two-on-two with Brendan Morrison that developed into a three-on-two when Willie Mitchell skated into the play. Cooke passed to Morrison, who gave it back to Cooke on the right-wing boards. Cooke passed to Mitchell skating into the left circle, who found the tape of Morrison's stick, and Morrison from point-blank range just had to redirect it past Kiprusoff and into the net.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, shorthanded, Brendan Morrison 9 (Willie Mitchell, Cooke) 16:40
Calgary badly outshot Vancouver 13-3 in the period (21-18 overall). They were 0-for-2 (0-for-5) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-4).

3rd period
The Flames got exactly the start they needed for the third period thanks to a seemingly innocent play that turned horribly wrong for Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa had the puck stolen at his own blue line by Huselius, who skated all the way from the left point to the net and easily put it past Luongo high on the short (stick) side. Luongo might have been waiting for a pass since two other Flames were in the zone on the play.
»» 7, CALGARY, Huselius 13 (unassisted) 0:51
It didn't take long for the Vancouver fans to have a sick feeling in their stomach as another two-goal lead had disappeared. Calgary chipped the puck to the end boards from the left point, where it banked off the boards to Stephane Yelle, who quickly put a shot to the net that was stopped. Dustin Boyd took a hack at the rebound and was stopped, but by this point Luongo was down and out, and David Moss to Luongo's right put a backhand shot into the net as Markus Naslund was trying to bump him off the puck to no avail. This was Moss' third goal and this was Moss' third game in the NHL.
»» 8, CALGARY, David Moss 3 (Dustin Boyd, Stephane Yelle) 2:12
It got worse. The Flames kept the Canucks and Luongo under siege for most of the period and got a break as Ohlund was called for his third minor penalty of the game with 6:08 left. On the ensuing power play, the Flames won a battle along the Vancouver end boards and sent the puck out to the blue line. Dion Phaneuf made a hard pass to Iginla below the right hash, and he quickly passed to Langkow mid-slot, who turned and fired the puck past Luongo to give Calgary its first lead of the game.
»» 9, CALGARY, powerplay, Langkow 13 (Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf) 15:13
Vancouver would end up getting what they badly needed. Jan Bulis near the end boards chipped the puck to Naslund, who flung the puck toward the net that was stopped with Ryan Kesler in front. The puck was loose in front of the net and Kiprusoff was trying to reach to cover it up, but it got too far away from him and he was in no position to stop Kesler's shot as Kesler chipped a backhander over Kiprusoff.
»» 10, VANCOUVER, Ryan Kesler 5 (Markus Naslund, Jan Bulis) 16:20
Calgary again badly outshot Vancouver 15-4 in the period (36-22 overall). They were scored on the only power play awarded in the period (1-for-6), so Vancouver remained 1-for-4).

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin did some stuff in the Calgary zone before the puck cycled counterclockwise to set up a Sami Salo one-timer from the left side. The one-timer came, sure enough, and it deflected off of Chuck Kobasew's skate as well as Phaneuf, and it found the back of the net.
»» 11, VANCOUVER, Sami Salo 5 (Ohlund, D Sedin) 2:46
Vancouver had the only two shots of overtime and scored on the second one. Calgary outshot Vancouver 36-24 for the game. No power plays were awarded in the period, so Calgary finished 1-for-6 and Vancouver finished 1-for-4. Luongo stopped 31 shots for the game.

Three stars -- (1) Cooke, (2) Calgary's Kristian Huselius, (3) Salo

skater, goals-assists-points
D Sedin 1-2-3
Ohlund 0-3-3
Cooke 1-1-2
Kesler 1-0-1
Morrison 1-0-1
Salo 1-0-1
H Sedin 1-0-1
Bieksa 0-1-1
Bulis 0-1-1
Linden 0-1-1
Mitchell 0-1-1
Naslund 0-1-1
Pyatt 0-1-1

In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 33 of 61 draws (54%). Brendan Morrison won 14 of 19, Trevor Linden won three of four, Ryan Kesler won five of 13, Marc Chouinard won two of eight, and Henrik Sedin won eight of 16. Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Morrison, and Daniel Sedin led in shots with three apiece. Matt Cooke delivered a half-dozen hits while Taylor Pyatt and Linden dished out three each. Morrison, Linden, and Markus Naslund notched two takeaways each. Cooke coughed up the puck twice. Willie Mitchell blocked five shots and Mattias Ohlund blocked a pair.

Here's the plus-minus for this wild game. At plus-1 were Ohlund, Morrison, Linden, Daniel Sedin, Cooke, and Henrik Sedin. The lone plus-2 was Salo. All the minus skaters were minus-1, and they were Kesler, Naslund, Josh Green, Yannick Tremblay, and Jan Bulis. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.

The Canucks got this much-needed win to push their division record to a less-pathetic 6-9-1. Their overall record improves to 19-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 39 points, suddenly vaulting them into first place in the Northwest Division thanks to losses by Minnesota and Colorado earlier in the night. They are exactly one point ahead of every other team in the division, a feat nearly unthinkable two days beforehand. The current division order is Edmonton in second, Calgary in third, Colorado in fourth, and Minnesota in fifth. Minnesota has played the most games out of the group, Colorado has a game in hand on Minnesota, and the Oilers and Flames both have two games in hand on the Wild. The Oilers have won two of the three matchups this season with the Flames. In the Western Conference, only Los Angeles, Dallas, and Anaheim have played as many or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim still has a comfortable lead with their 62 points, but now has some key injuries to deal with. Nashville is second with 53 points. Vancouver went from eleventh the night before up to third by virtue of leading the Northwest Division. San Jose is fourth with 50 points (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 49 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 48 (third in the Pacific), Edmonton is seventh, Calgary is eighth, Colorado is ninth, Minnesota is tenth, and Chicago is eleventh with 37 points.

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