Saturday, December 30, 2006
The Canucks had two nights off after beating the Flames in Calgary and in Vancouver on consecutive nights. The good thing is they got some rest, but the bad thing is that other division rivals played games in the meantime too. In other words, both Minnesota and Calgary won games, putting Vancouver back into third place in the extremely tight Northwest Division and into eighth place in the Western Conference. The big games kept coming though, as the Canucks traveled to Edmonton to face the Oilers, another division rival. The good news for Vancouver was that Edmonton had lost six of eight coming into this game as well as five of seven at home. Edmonton had started the season 10-2 at home. Roberto Luongo unsurprisingly would be in the Vancouver net for this one whereas the Oilers went with Jussi Markkanen, who had a 4-1 career record against the Canucks.
Vancouver's first goal would be the result of an Edmonton turnover, some battling, and some quick passing. Markus Naslund took the puck away and Ryan Kesler took a shot that was blocked. Jan Bulis behind the net passed to Naslund, who circled behind the net and was stopped on a wraparound attempt. The Canucks won a battle in the right corner, and Kesler passed back to Naslund on the goal line, who had to lean forward to quickly poke the puck toward the slot -- a pass that crossed up Marc-Andre Bergeron, who wondered who he was supposed to cover -- where Bulis tapped it past Markkanen.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Jan Bulis 7 (Markus Naslund, Ryan Kesler) 8:38
With just under eight minutes left, the puck went quickly from the Vancouver end into the Edmonton end, and Taylor Pyatt on the end boards sent it to Henrik Sedin on the left-wing boards. Henrik quickly made a long pass to Daniel Sedin bearing down on the net, who rang a shot off the post. Edmonton outshot Vancouver 7-5 in the period. They were 0-for-1 on the only power play of the period.
Vancouver got an early power play and capitalized. Henrik Sedin on the right-wing boards bided his time looking for his brother Daniel to get open in the high slot. Henrik finally passed to Kevin Bieksa at the blue line, who let loose on a one-timer that Daniel deflected into the net. Daniel at this point had put up five goals and two assists over his last four games.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Daniel Sedin 14 (Kevin Bieksa, Henrik Sedin) 2:02
The Canucks carried over momentum from an expired power play to stake themselves out to a three-goal lead. A loose puck got to the end boards that Markkanen let go. Markus Naslund fought off other Oiler defenders for the puck and passed to Lukas Krajicek at the right point, and Krajicek passed to Sami Salo at the left point. Salo skated a few feet toward the left circle before blasting a one-timer through a couple of bodies in front (one of which was Pyatt), past Markkanen, and into the net.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Sami Salo 6 (Lukas Krajicek, Naslund) 15:43
Vancouver was about to get a very rare four-goal lead after the Oilers had taken another penalty. Bieksa at the right point threw the puck toward the goal and it was tipped onto the net by Daniel Sedin. The rebound trickled up the slot, where Mattias Ohlund boomed it past Markkanen.
»» 4, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Mattias Ohlund 6 (D Sedin, Bieksa) 17:24
Vancouver outshot Edmonton 11-10 in the period, but Edmonton had a 17-16 edge for the game. The Canucks were 2-for-3 on the power play while Edmonton was 0-for-2 (0-for-3).
Roberto Luongo is very good and even great in many parts of his game. It's well known, however, that he's not too good handling the puck. Edmonton dumped the puck into the Vancouver zone and Luongo nearly handled it in the evil trapezoid area, which would have been a minor penalty. He didn't play it and let it go past the trapezoid, but had to hurry back to the net as Ryan Smyth was right there to play the puck. Luongo was a bit too far out of the net, and Smyth found Marc-Antoine Pouliot skating down the slot. Pouliot got the pass from Smyth and easily put it into the net as Luongo didn't get back in time.
»» 5, EDMONTON, Marc-Antoine Pouliot 2 (Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky) 0:40
The Canucks had decent four-on-four pressure with just over eight minutes left. A Matt Cooke slapshot was blocked, and the puck came back to him. Brendan Morrison got the puck and shot from just inside the right hash which was nicely stopped by Markkanen. The rebound came out, and Morrison backhanded a shot that was stopped by Markkanen again, and the short rebound out front was hacked at by Cooke, who couldn't get a shot away, and Morrison tried shooting too but was tripped up because Markkanen was lying on his back at this point. Finally, Willie Mitchell got a hold of the puck and blasted it, but it was blocked by Petr Sykora. Vancouver would have to kill off a penalty just a few minutes later, but they quickly turned the tables. The Canucks picked off a pass in their own zone just as an Ohlund hooking penalty expired. Morrison spotted Ohlund coming out of the box and hit him with a stretch pass, and Ohlund skated in alone on the net. He skated down the left side before deking to the backhand and putting it past Markkanen.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, Ohlund 7 (Brendan Morrison) 15:02
Sixty-seven seconds later, the Oilers would get back on the board, but it was too little too late. Vancouver was trying to clear the puck from their own zone, and Mitchell was trying to pass to Bulis along the boards. The pass was a bit wide and Bulis didn't get to it, but Jan Hejda did. He centered the puck, and it went off Raffi Torres' skate, but it banked right to Shawn Horcoff, who banged it past Luongo.
»» 7, EDMONTON, Shawn Horcoff 5 (Raffi Torres, Jan Hejda) 16:09
The Sedins would go to the well one last time, and on an incredible play. Rory Fitzpatrick got the puck behind the Vancouver net and passed along the boards to Daniel Sedin, who took it across center. He dropped it back to Henrik, whose slapshot was stopped, but the puck deflected high into the air. Daniel found himself just beside the net, where he grabbed the puck out of the air with his glove, put it back onto the ice, and tapped it into the net. Truly amazing.
»» 8, VANCOUVER, D Sedin 15 (H Sedin, Rory Fitzpatrick) 16:47
Edmonton peppered pucks at Luongo, outshooting the Canucks 20-9 (37-25 total). They were 0-for-6 (0-for-9) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (2-for-5). Luongo stopped 35 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Naslund, (2) Ohlund, (3) D Sedin
D Sedin 2-1-3
H Sedin 0-2-2
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 26 of 64 draws (41%). Brendan Morrison won nine of 15, Trevor Linden won two of three, Ryan Kesler won four of 14 (ouch), Josh Green won three of 10 (ouch), Henrik Sedin won five of 15 (more ouch), and Jan Bulis won three of four. Daniel Sedin led the team with four shots (he scored on two of them). Matt Cooke and Henrik Sedin had three shots apiece. Markus Naslund recorded zero shots on goal. Mattias Ohlund and Alexandre Burrows threw three hits each. Kesler notched four takeaways and Rory Fitzpatrick had three. Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck four times each and Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, and Willie Mitchell had three hiccups each themselves. Mitchell, Matt Cooke, and Bulis missed the net twice apiece.
There was some range on the plus-minus ledger for this one. At minus-1 were Mitchell and Linden. The lone minus-2 was Bieksa. At plus-1 were Krajicek, Morrison, Kesler, Naslund, and Cooke. At plus-2 were Salo, Taylor Pyatt, and Fitzpatrick. The lone plus-3 was Ohlund. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The win pushed the Canucks to a record of 20-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 41 points and vaulting them from third place back into the top spot in the Northwest Division. It also made their formerly brutal division record to a progressively less brutal 7-9-1. Calgary is a point behind Vancouver in second place, Minnesota is a point behind Vancouver in third place (Calgary has two games in hand on the Wild), Edmonton is three points behind Vancouver in fourth place, and Colorado is three points back in fifth/last place (the Oilers have a game in hand on the Avalanche). In the Western Conference, only Nashville and the non-Phoenix teams in the Pacific Division have played as many games as or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim is banged up but still at the top of the West with 62 points. Nashville is second with 55. Vancouver is third by virtue of leading the Northwest Division. Detroit is fourth with 51 (second in the Central). Dallas is fifth with 50 (second in the Pacific), and San Jose is sixth (third in the Pacific, Dallas has the head-to-head). Calgary is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Edmonton is ninth, Colorado is tenth, and Chicago is 11th with 37 points.