The Goods: Manny among boys
The Vancouver Canucks played good enough to win, good enough to collect two points and good enough to regain top spot in the NHL standings.
Vancouver’s 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at Rogers Arena wasn’t good enough for the players themselves though.
The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was on full display as the Canucks hit the midway point of their longest homestand of the season in the fourth and final meeting with the Blues this season, and in the opening 20 minutes Vancouver owned St. Louis.
Mikael Samuelsson and Sami Salo both scored in the first as the Canucks opened a 2-0 lead, outshooting the Blues 17-11. Cory Schneider, who finished as the game’s first star for a 27-save performance in his first career start against St. Louis, was flawless in net, his play a reflection of Vancouver’s hot start.
In the second, the Canucks reverted back to the lackluster style of play that had them surrender back-to-back goals 67 seconds apart to the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, only it took the Blues a little longer to even the score at 2-2 as they struck twice within 74 seconds.
Manny Malhotra put Vancouver back in front with his eighth goal of the season 1:05 into the third and that was enough for the Canucks to cling to in evening the season series with the Blues at two games apiece, despite St. Louis giving Vancouver a few good scares late in the game.
That was to be expected from a scrappy team fighting for its playoff life.
“They’re a talented team and more impressive than their talent is their work ethic,” noted Malhotra, who wrapped a puck around the net and beat St. Louis’ Ty Conklin for his second goal in five outings.
“They always get up to play us, they do a good job of getting pucks to the net and creating opportunities and it was frustrating in the second, obviously we let them back in, but Cory did a great job of shutting the door in the third and we got this one.”
The win continues Vancouver’s win-one-lose-one rotation of games, which now stands at nine. The Canucks haven’t strung together consecutive wins since beating the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators on February 4th and 7th, but they still haven’t lost two-in-a-row since a four-game slide in mid-November.
As mentioned, the victory inches the Canucks past the Philadelphia Flyers in the battle for the President’s Trophy moving Vancouver to 39 wins and 87 points; the Canucks are one win from their 11th 40-win season and 11 from setting a new club record of 50 wins, with 19 games remaining.
Before any of that can happen, the Canucks need to embrace Jekyll and ditch Hyde.
“That second period is inexcusable,” said Kesler, matter-of-factly. “It’s something that this hockey team needs to nip in the butt really quickly. We weren’t executing, we weren’t bearing down…nothing was good.
“We rebounded, that’s the important thing,” added Kesler, “we rebounded, but at the same time we didn’t play a full 60 minutes and we need to start doing that to beat hockey teams.”
O FROM D
Sami Salo isn’t one for hooting and hollering. When he scores, he keeps it simple.
That was the case when Salo ripped a one-timer past Ty Conklin with 3:13 left in the first period, but there’s no doubt the defenceman was going berserk inside in celebration of his first regulation goal since April 4, 2010.
Salo said he “just tried to hit the net,” which he did, and in doing so he became the eighth blueliner to score for the Canucks this season. The defence has chipped in 128 points so far and that’s a much-needed source of offence for Vancouver.
“It’s huge,” said Salo. “In the beginning of the season when we had Alex and Kevin and those guys, they played a big role in that and it obviously helps us score a lot more getting offence from the D. Right now other people have to try to step in with us missing some of our key parts.”
Salo has a goal and two assists in seven games since returning from injury.
For the first time this season St. Louis’ Alex Steen failed to score on Vancouver; the Canucks allowed a power play goal for the first time in nine home games (33-for-34 on the kill); Daniel and Henrik Sedin both extended their point streaks to four games, but they combined for just four points in four games vs. the Blues this season.