Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The tough games kept coming for the Canucks. Christmas Day had come and gone, but Vancouver had since won all three games they had played, their three biggest wins of the season, and some would argue all three of the games were must-wins. Bigger yet was the fact that the wins were against key Northwest Division rivals, twice against Calgary and once against Edmonton. In yet another tough game, the Canucks traveled to Calgary for the second time in a week for another match with the Flames. Tough guy Jeff Cowan was injured and didn't make the trip to Calgary, so Marc Chouinard took his spot on the bench. In addition, the Flames had Roman Hamrlik in the lineup, which wasn't the case the last time these two teams met. In a stat that's never helpful for the Canucks, the Calgary Flames came into this game with a plus-22 mark when skating five-on-five, which means either Vancouver would have to really grind it out if they were to get the win or they'd have to be absolute money on the power play.
Just under four minutes into the game, Daniel Sedin at the right point set up Kevin Bieksa for a slapshot in the high slot that was stopped by the pad of Miikka Kiprusoff. Later, the Canucks were able to keep the puck along the Calgary end boards, and fresh off stealing the puck, Brendan Morrison from behind the net found Trevor Linden in the slot, and the longtime Canuck snapped it past Kiprusoff to stake the Canucks out to an early lead.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Trevor Linden 5 (Brendan Morrison) 7:54
Later in the period on a Vancouver power play, Markus Naslund up high set up Sami Salo for a one-timer that was blocked. The puck went loose to the slot and Morrison was able to spin and fire it into the net to double up on the lead.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Morrison 10 (Sami Salo, Markus Naslund) 11:57
Vancouver outshot the Flames 10-7 in probably their best first period of the season. They were 1-for-2 on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-2.
Just past the first minute of the period, Daniel Sedin and Taylor Pyatt raced into the Calgary end on a two-on-one. Daniel passed to Pyatt barreling down the slot, but Pyatt was hooked by Jarome Iginla, who wasn't called for it as Pyatt couldn't get a shot away. On a later Vancouver power play, a long shoot-in was steered toward the left-wing boards by Kiprusoff, and Roman Hamrlik chipped it ahead. Kristian Huselius had it in the neutral zone and passed off to Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi turned on the jets and blew past Lukas Krajicek and got around Kevin Bieksa before deking to the forehand and beating Roberto Luongo for his fourth shorthanded goal of the season, getting the Flames to within one.
»» 3, CALGARY, shorthanded, Matthew Lombardi 12 (Kristian Huselius, Roman Hamrlik) 6:00
Late in the period, Mark Giordano at the blue line faked a shot to bring Alexandre Burrows to the ground, who was trying to block it. Giordano moved further left and had a shot blocked by Bieksa. Giordano grabbed the puck out of the air and put it down, but it was chipped ahead by the Canucks, and Burrows and Josh Green were sent away on a two-on-one. Burrows waited with the patience of a 40-goal scorer and tucked it in glove side past Kiprusoff from behind the goal line after the Calgary goalie overcommitted to the pokecheck. Burrows had tallied for the first time in 48 games.
»» 4, VANCOUVER, Alexandre Burrows 1 (Marc Chouinard, Kevin Bieksa) 15:29
As Vancouver's third goal was being announced in the arena, Daniel Sedin stole the puck and had a shot from the low slot stopped by Kiprusoff, then brother Henrik Sedin followed up on the rebound and was stopped as well. Vancouver's second two-goal lead of the game wouldn't last very long. With just under three minutes remaining, Trevor Linden had a pass picked off in the neutral zone and Lombardi took his wheels the other way. Lombardi skated down the left side and got around Bieksa again before lasering the puck off the inside off a post and into the net. Bieksa gave Lombardi a shot after the goal and had to subsequently answer to Andrew Ference as the two fought.
»» 5, CALGARY, Lombardi 13 (Mark Giordano, Huselius) 17:23
Vancouver outshot the Flames 15-9 in the period (25-16 overall). They were 0-for-5 (1-for-7) on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-2 (0-for-4).
With just over six minutes remaining, Calgary had a three-on-one as Huselius on the left side passed across the slot to perfectly set up Byron Ritchie, whose shot was miraculously stopped by Luongo on an absolute monster save to preserve the one-goal lead. Vancouver was badly outshot 13-4 in the period, evening out the shots for the game at 29 apiece. Both teams were 0-for-3 in the final period on the power play, leaving Vancouver at 1-for-10 and Calgary at 0-for-7. Luongo stopped 27 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Calgary's Matthew Lombardi, (2) Morrison, (3) Luongo
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 23 of 58 draws (40%). Brendan Morrison won six of 17, Trevor Linden won three of eight, Ryan Kesler won six of 16, Josh Green lost both of his, Marc Chouinard lost all four of his, Henrik Sedin won six of eight, and Jan Bulis split a pair. Taylor Pyatt and Daniel Sedin led the team with four shots apiece while Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo each had three. Kesler dished out three hits and Green had two. Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck three times and Mattias Ohlund gave it away twice. Willie Mitchell and Alexandre Burrows blocked a pair of shots apiece.
Just a bunch of ones on the plus-minus ledger for this game. At plus-1 were Salo, Mitchell, Burrows, Green, and Chouinard. At minus-1 were Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, Morrison, Pyatt, and Markus Naslund. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The win pushed the Canucks to a record of 21-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 43 points and also raising their division record to 8-9-1, a far cry from the dismality it was earlier in the season. Vancouver is now second in the Northwest Division, one point behind the Minnesota Wild. They are one point ahead of third-place Calgary and three ahead of both Colorado and Edmonton, who are in fourth (Colorado has the head-to-head). In the Western Conference, only Nashville, Minnesota, and the non-Phoenix teams in the Pacific Division have played as many games as or more games than the Canucks. Despite a bushel of injuries, Anaheim still leads the West with 62 points, Nashville is second with 55, Minnesota is third, Detroit is fourth with 55 (second in the Central, Nashville has a game in hand), San Jose is fifth with 52, Dallas is sixth with 50, Vancouver is seventh, Calgary is eighth, Colorado is ninth, Edmonton is tenth, and Chicago is 11th with 39.