Doing it all
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If there’s one game from this season the Vancouver Canucks would love to turn the clock back on and play again, it would be the heart wrenching 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 20. |
Spring ahead to Saturday night and the Canucks did more than avenge that loss, they stopped a nauseating streak of seven consecutive losses to the Sharks with a 3-1 home win.
Every game this late in the season is the biggest of the year and this one was no exception; Vancouver opened up a 2-0 lead six minutes into the first and grunted its way to the finish line exchanging goals with San Jose in the third frame.
Mats Sundin snapped a 10-game goalless drought with his seventh goal of the season, which stood as the game-winner, but it was offence from the defence that put the Canucks over the edge on this night.
Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa both found the back of the net in providing some secondary scoring; as much as Tide gets grass stains out, Vancouver wins when the back end finds the scoresheet.
The Canucks sport a sparkling record of 20-5-2 when a defenceman scores. There’s a lot that could be read into that, yet there’s no denying Vancouver simply thrives when Willie Mitchell and company can tickle twine.
“You shoot the puck, you get rewarded and tonight we did,” said Mitchell, whose two shots were turned aside by Brian Boucher, but still has three goals this season.
“I just think we’ve got a good balance as a crew and good shots back there and this year we’re just finding a way to score some goals and it’s important.”
Of the 28 goals Vancouver defencemen have scored, the majority have come from point shots, and by that I mean the d-men have whipped out their bazookas and torched rockets at opposing goalies from the blueline.
That’s how Edler notched his eighth goal of the season past Boucher just 3:15 into the first period.
On a delayed penalty against the Sharks, Mattias Ohlund shimmied the puck behind the San Jose net to Ryan Kesler, who then hit Edler with a pass at the blueline.
Edler played give-and-go with Ohlund as after taking a pass and looking for a shot, Ohlund ripped the puck back to Edler – he had it in his crosshairs and let a screaming slap shot fly past Boucher.
Bieksa’s 11th score of the year, which came on the power play 11:48 into the third, wasn’t a carbon copy of Edler’s goal, but it was close.
The play started when Bieksa carried the puck out of his own end before hitting Daniel Sedin with a pass. He carried it in and dropped it for Henrik and after the two were finished dizzying the Sharks, Sami Salo took a pass at the right point and fed Bieksa the puck for an enviable one-timer.
Two pretty plays finished off by two perfect shots, from players assigned to stop the opposition from scoring - need I say more?
“I think overall on offence that’s one of the things that’s good with this team, we try to contribute, all of us, the whole team, and same with on defence,” said Sundin.
That ‘everyone helps out everywhere’ mentality has now backed the Canucks to 12 wins in 14 games and in doing so, Vancouver has solidified itself as one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
The biggest difference between these Canucks and the ones that lost to the Sharks in San Jose before the all-star break is confidence, knowing that they can tango with the league’s elite.
“I thought we came out and really wanted this game,” said Kesler, who had two helpers.
“We were physical, we were skating well and we were generating offence, which we haven’t in the past couple games against these guys. We dominated a pretty good team.”
The Canucks didn’t send out an official press release after the game, but the team made a statement nonetheless with this win. Gone are the floundering ways of January, replaced by the gritty hockey displayed in February that has carried over into March.
“It maybe does [send a message] around the league a little bit,” smiled Alex Burrows, “but for us, we have to do it every night because anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
“Now we’re going to LA, a team that’s really battling for a playoff spot, and we need to have a good game.”
The Canucks face the Kings twice in the next six days, first on Monday in L.A. then at GM Place on Friday night. Starting the brief two-game Californian swing with a win before heading into Anaheim on Wednesday would be nice, especially since points are as precious as ever right now.
The two points attained by Vancouver against San Jose keeps the Canucks in fifth spot in the Western Conference, only five points back of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Each win is also helping Vancouver create a little separation between those nipping from behind; the Canucks are now four points up on sixth place Columbus and six ahead of eighth spot. Vancouver also has two games in hand over the three teams directly below them in the standings.
1 – Win for Vancouver in its last eight games against San Jose
2 – Goals by Canucks defencemen, Edler and Bieksa both scored
20-5-2 – Vancouver's record when a d-man finds the back of the net
28 – Goals scored by Canucks defencemen this season
28 – Saves for Roberto Luongo, including 11 in the third period
The offence came from the defence, two thirds of it anyways, as the Canucks just keep on rolling.
While Vancouver has its key players up front, everyone is chipping in with timely scoring as the team's secondary scoring issues have been erased from memory.
Vancouver and San Jose finished tied in shots at 29-29.
Roberto Luongo just keeps stepping his game up lately and this night was no different.
With the exception of a Joe Thornton goal that eluded him, Lui was an unstoppable force making 28 saves.
His best of the night came off Jonathan Cheechoo early in the second period; what a whammy!
Vancouver failed to convert on two power plays in the first and three in the second before eventually figuring things out in the third.
Kevin Bieksa's goal was of the special teams variety leaving the Canucks 1-for-6 overall with 14 shots.
San Jose also capitalized on one opporunity going 1-for-3.