The Goods: Western Conference champs

Wednesday, 30.03.2011 / 12:00 AM / Features
By Derek Jory
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The Goods: Western Conference champs

The bow and arrow made an appearance just in the nick of time.

The Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena to clinch the #1 seed in the Western Conference and it was Alex Burrows playing the hero with a breakaway goal with 2:29 remaining in the third period to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead.

As he’s done so many times before, Burrows turned archer after scoring releasing an arrow to the heavens in tribute to fallen Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon.

It’s been a while since Burrows used the celebration, which is reserved for special goals, but then again it’s been a while since a goal meant so much to the Canucks.

Never before has Vancouver finished atop the Western Conference. For their efforts the Canucks will have home ice advantage on their side for three quarters of the post-season – not that winning on the road is an issue these days.

Vancouver’s fourth comeback win when trailing after two periods had Burrows score 1:17 into the third to even the game. From there the Canucks outshot the Predators 12-2 and it was only a matter of time before the NHL’s top ranked offence struck again.

On the first Burrows score, Daniel Sedin fed Henrik, who hit Burrows in front of the goal, on the second it was Henrik dishing off to Daniel, who relayed the puck to Burrows in stride as he crossed the Nashville line. In alone on Pekka Rinne, Burrows went backhand and roofed his fourth game-winning goal of the night.

“I knew there were two minutes left,” said Burrows, replaying the goal. “I saw Danny or Hank and I had a step on the D-man, I was hoping he could just thread the needle and he was able to get it in, I went to my go-to and it worked.”

The win, Vancouver’s fourth to end a four-game road trip and team record ninth consecutive road victory overall, was also a special one for Aaron Rome, who scored his first goal as a Canuck after enduring parts of four seasons without finding the back of the net.

Predators netminder Rinne made finding the back of the net impossible for every Canuck through 40 minutes of this game and combined with Mike Fisher’s game-opening goal, Nashville was able to grind the pace to a halt.

The Predators have 92 points through 77 games to sit in sixth in the West, just a point back of the fourth place Phoenix Coyotes, but only two in front of the Chicago Blackhawks, who sit in eighth. The Canucks will face whatever team battles its way into the post-season in the final spot and that could very well be the Predators.

If that ends up being the case, the Canucks had best invest in a case of Red Bull for the “strategic” (read: mind-numbingly slow) hockey that would lie ahead.

“Against these guys you’ve got to play the same way they do and try to keep it a tight game,” said Daniel Sedin, who, with two assists on the night, now has a league-high 98 points this season. “We know in the end we have some more firepower than they do and it paid off in the end.

“It can be frustrating playing against these guys, but you’ve got to be ready for a low scoring affair, there’s not a lot of chances out there, and if you’re ready for that you can keep the emotions good, then we can take over.”

ROME TO THE RESCUE

Daniel Sedin provided the encouragement and Henrik Sedin let his character speak for itself.

When Aaron Rome skipped a puck high into the air 108-feet from the Nashville net that found its way into the goal with nine seconds to play in Vancouver’s 3-1 win, it was Rome’s first goal as a Vancouver Canuck and first since April 3rd, 2008, when his Columbus Blue Jackets lost 3-2 to the Detroit Red Wings – a span of 108 games.

Daniel Sedin revealed that he and Rome spoke before the game with the defenceman letting him in on how long his goalless streak was, to which Daniel replied that tonight was the night to end it.

Henrik Sedin played a part by slowing down and not touching the puck as it veered down the ice into the empty net. A lesser man, one with a shot at a second Art Ross Trophy in as many years, would have tapped it home, maybe without even thinking, but not Henrik. Like a true teammate, he gave Rome the glory he deserved.

“The guys loved it,” said Rome, who doubled his NHL goal total with the score. “Juice loved it more than anybody I think; they’ve been grilling me for a long time for not scoring. It was an ugly one and I was fortunate to get it.”

What came next for Rome he will surely give back: a shaving cream pie in the face from teammates in the dressing room.

NOTES

Roberto Luongo won his NHL-best 36th game of the year, he remains the only goaltender in the top three in wins, save percentage and goals against average; the Canucks are 12-2-0 in the month of March, good for 24 points, tying their team best 11-2-2 March from the 2006-07 season, although the Canucks still have one game remaining this month to best that mark; Chris Tanev slotted in for Dan Hamhuis, who missed the game after suffering a concussion against the Columbus Blue Jackets.