New Year's Nightmares
| Perhaps the New Year’s resolution for the Vancouver Canucks should be not to play any more hockey games on New Year’s Eve.
Kristian Huselius scored the winner and Daymond Langkow added two assists as the Calgary Flames held off the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 at the Pengrowth Saddledome Monday night.
The New Year’s Eve loss dropped Vancouver’s all-time record on December 31 to a dismal 5-10-3. The Canucks have been outscored 63-47 over that stretch.
Vancouver has been even worse in its last ten contests on the final day of the year, compiling a record of 1-8-1. The combined score in those games? An ugly 43-24.
It didn’t used to be this way. Over their first 23 years of existence, the Canucks put together a very respectable 4-2-2 mark on New Year’s.
But call it bad luck for repeatedly facing off against Eric Lindros’ Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-90s, or call it the curse of Petr Nedved, but whatever the case, Vancouver’s fortunes on this particular day have done a complete 180.
Aside from a 4-3 victory against Chicago in 2003, the Canucks haven’t won on December 31 since 1992 when they knocked off Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings 4-0.
In that time, the Canucks have suffered through some ugly losses, including 8-0 and 6-2 blowouts in 1997 and 1998, respectively, to the Flyers.
All that being said, things started off rather well for Vancouver this time around.
After Matthew Lombardi missed a golden opportunity from deep in the slot, Henrik Sedin took the puck back the other way and led a 3-on-2. He delayed just long enough for brother Daniel to find a seam, then hit him with a quick pass. Daniel made no mistake, firing a wrister past Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead just 2:34 in.
It was the start a tired Vancouver team, playing its second game in as many nights, was looking for. Unfortunately for Canucks fans, they couldn’t hold it.
Owen Nolan took a Langkow feed just under nine minutes later and roofed it from a sharp angle to tie things up at one. The goal came just seven seconds after Mike Brown’s roughing penalty expired. Brown was sent to the box for hitting Cory Sarich after the whistle.
After the teams combined for just eight shots in the first period, the Canucks and Flames combined for twenty in the second.
Vancouver’s best chance in the middle frame came from Alex Edler, who walked in off the blue line and fired a slapshot that Kiprusoff stopped with his blocker.
Huselius capitalized six minutes later after a wild scrum at the Vancouver end. An Eriksson point shot bounced out to Langkow, who kicked the puck toward the net. It found Huselius who simply had to tap it in.
Vancouver mounted a rally in the third and generated numerous chances on an early powerplay that ultimately failed to click. Jason Jaffray’s rebound attempt on a Markus Naslud wraparound missed the far post by mere inches.
It was as close as the Canucks would come on what has truly become a cursed night.
0 – Points for Flames captain Jarome Iginla. In five games against Vancouver this season, Jarome has just one goal and two assists.
5 – Blocked shots for Willie Mitchell to lead all skaters.
6 – Goals in six games for Daniel Sedin. Daniel’s also racked up ten points in his last eight games.
27:45 – Of ice-time for Sami Salo, a game high.
The offense stalled to the point that Alain Vigneault had to break up his bread and butter. Taylor Pyatt took some shifts with the Sedins and Markus Naslund skated with Jason Jaffray and Mason Raymond. It didn’t help, as after an early goal Vancouver generated very little 5-on-5.
As little as Vancouver generated offensively, Calgary wasn’t much better. The Flames were held to a mere 20 shots and Roberto Luongo didn’t have to be as spectacular as we’ve seen him be. Of the 20 giveaways the Canucks had as a team, only six came from defensemen.
The powerplay did everything but score early in the third period when the Canucks were playing catch-up and was unlucky to register a goose egg. The penalty kill didn’t technically give up a goal, but the Nolan marker came just seven seconds after Brown left the box and give a lifeless Calgary team some much-needed energy.