| In honour of their Vancouver counterparts who are getting set to kick off the CFL’s West Final on Sunday, the Canucks took a page out of the BC Lions’ book and put up a couple of field goals.
Vancouver chased Minnesota starter Josh Harding less than twelve minutes into the game and didn’t let up on his replacement as they crushed the Wild 6-2 Friday night at General Motors Place.
Having scored just four goals in their last four home games and with a notoriously stingy Minnesota team coming to town, the Canucks offense unexpectedly exploded, tallying four times in the first period alone.
Vancouver had come into this contest with fewer goals in the opening frame than any other so far this season. The Canucks had tallied only 11 times in first periods, while giving up 15.
But Taylor Pyatt’s goal three minutes in snatched the momentum for Vancouver and the Canucks were off to the races.
“It’s easier to play when you’ve got the lead and [the Wild] have to play a different game,” said captain Markus Naslund, whose powerplay marker midway through the first gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead. “Now they have to score a little bit and they open up a little bit that way.”
Aware of how poor Vancouver’s starts have been, Naslund was pleased to see his teammates ready from the get-go.
“We needed a better start, especially at home,” said Naslund. “I felt that we had a lot of guys that played hungry tonight.”
The opposing side was just as impressed.
“They were ready to play and they played really well,” said Minnesota head coach Jacques Lemaire. “Probably the best I’ve seen them play, especially at the start. They were skating well. They were making good plays. Every line was solid. Every line was controlling the play, which you don’t have that too often. They deserved the game better than we did.”
Forward Brian Rolston said even though his team was ready for a quick start by Vancouver in front of its home crowd, the Wild were unable to hold the Canucks off.
“Right off the bat they hopped on us,” said Rolston. “We knew they were going to come out hard and they did. They got up by two fast. They got up on us quick and then we were fighting back for the rest of the game.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault believes this kind of start and win is something his team can build on.
“I’ve been very happy with the way we’ve been playing lately and happy with the way we’ve been playing at home,” said Vigneault. “Tonight finally we got rewarded offensively for all our hard work so hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.”
After Naslund put the Canucks up by two, the Wild appeared to get on the board when Derek Boogaard batted a puck past Roberto Luongo. But the goal was immediately waved off because Boogaard’s stick made contact with the puck while it was above the cross bar.
Less than two minutes later, Mattias Ohlund came off the blueline and banged a rebound past Harding to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead. The goal marked the end of the line for Harding, who was replaced by Niklas Backstrom.
Backstrom barely had time to settle in before Daniel Sedin took a feed from brother Henrik, split two Wild penalty killers and snapped the puck past the Minnesota goaltender to put the Canucks up 4-0.
Trevor Linden added his first of the season in the second period and Luc Bourdon netted his first career goal on a late powerplay to round out the scoring.
The six goals are the most Vancouver has scored this season, surpassing the five the Canucks netted October 12th in Edmonton.
It’s the first time Vancouver has scored six goals since the team defeated the Maple Leafs 6-1 in Toronto on January 13th.
And Friday night marked the first time Vancouver has tallied six times on home ice since December 27th, 2006, when Sami Salo blasted an overtime slapshot past Miikka Kiprusoff to give the Canucks a 6-5 win.
But more important than just the sheer number of goals Vancouver scored in the game is the dominance they displayed in the opening twenty minutes. The Canucks demonstrated an ability to wipe out an opponent early and are now 8-3-0 when scoring first and 6-1-0 when leading after a period.
For a team that’s struggled out of the gate on so many nights so far this season, it’s encouraging to see these Canucks grab an early lead and earn the luxury of playing their game, their way.
11 – Minutes of ice-time for Jeff Cowan in his return to the lineup.
19 – Minutes in penalties for Mattias Ohlund, 17 of which were issued for a slash to the back of Mikko Koivu’s leg late in the game.
20 – Saves for Roberto Luongo on an unusually easy night.
62 – Percent of the faceoffs were won by Vancouver. Against Edmonton on Wednesday, the Canucks won only 32 percent
Six goals in total.
At least one created by each of the four lines. This is the balanced attack the Canucks have been looking for all season.
The defense kept a dangerous Minnesota team in check for most of the night.
The Wild were relegated to shooting from the outside and had few good scoring chances. Mattias Ohlund had a particularly strong night and was the game’s first star.
Three goals on the powerplay, including two in the first period, to put Minnesota away early.
The penalty kill gave one up in the third when the game was all but over.