Game 50: Old time hockey
On a night where the main storylines should have centered around the return of Roberto Luongo and Alex Burrows to Vancouver's lineup, not to mention the Canucks finally bumping a three-game slump, instead all the focus was on the fact the Canucks and Flames both decided - to steal a line from Elton John - that Saturday night's alright for fighting.
In the first meeting between the Canucks and Flames since December 29 – the night Brian McGrattan's hit to the head of Andrew Alberts left the Vancouver blueliner with a concussion that he has yet to return to action from – the two teams combined for a total of 204 penalty minutes, 188 of those coming in the first period, in a game that will be most remembered for the line brawl that kicked things off and the fallout from the fisticuffs that extended beyond the surface of the rink.
It took only two seconds into the game for the hostility to reach a boiling point as all 10 skaters on the ice dropped their gloves right off the opening faceoff leaving the ice surface looking more like a wrestling ring. The brouhaha, which featured a main event of Tom Sestito squaring off against the aforementioned McGrattan, would result in eight players earning game ejections including newcomer Kellan Lain, who was making his NHL debut after being summoned from Utica (AHL) earlier in the week.
The bad blood would linger as the period and, at one point, saw Vancouver's Zack Kassian and Calgary's Shane O'Brien earn 10-minute misconducts just past the midway mark of the first period leaving both teams with barely enough players to roll two complete lines.
When things calmed down to a point where the teams managed to fit a hockey game in, it was the Canucks that managed to do just enough to squeak by a lowly Flames team winning 3-2 in a shootout.
Chris Higgins scored the game-deciding goal in the fifth round of the penalty shot competition to help the Canucks cap a comeback that saw them erase a pair of one-goal deficits to earn just their second win in the last 10 games.
Ryan Kesler and Yannick Weber scored goals in regulation for the Canucks, while Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan had the tallies for the Flames.
Roberto Luongo made 31 saves on 33 shots through regulation and overtime, and stopped four of five Calgary shootout attempts, to pick up his 17th victory of the season and the 250th of his Canucks' career.
Karri Ramo also made 31 saves on 33 shots through regulation and overtime in the losing effort.
The Canucks have two days off before hitting the road to face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
BIG BAD CANUCKS: To put things in perspective, in their first 46 games played this season, the Canucks amassed a total of 497 penalty minutes. In their last four games, including the 103 penalty minutes they were assessed tonight, they have amassed a total of 265 penalty minutes – 35 percent of their overall season total. Tonight marked the first time the Canucks have exceeded 100 penalty minutes in a game since January 21, 1998 – a 6-1 home ice loss to Phoenix that saw them rack up 109 penalty minutes.
IRONMAN IN JEOPARDY: Henrik Sedin extended his team-record ironman streak to 679 consecutive games on Saturday but he may have just earned a one-game reprieve before having that impressive record come to an end. After being questionable to suit up tonight with a rib injury sustained in the loss to Phoenix on Thursday, the Canucks' captain did manage to dress on Saturday but lasted only two periods before calling it a night. Henrik has missed just 10 games in his NHL career since breaking into the league and has not sat out a game for any reason since March 19, 2004.
LOST IN THE HOOPLA:The win for the Canucks was their fifth in a row over the Flames dating back to last season... Kellan Lain's NHL debut lasted a grand total of two seconds. He became the second player in team history to wear No. 54 for the Canucks. The only other player to do so is Aaron Volpatti, now of the Washington Capitals... The Canucks improved their all-time record on Hockey Day in Canada to 9-2-3... Alex Burrows, playing in his first game since December 1 in Carolina, finished the night with two shots on goal and three hits in 20:46 of ice-time... Dan Hamhuis logged a team-high 36:12 of ice-time. The only player in the game with more ice-time than Hamhuis was Calgary's Dennis Wideman, who logged 38:05... Saturday's game took two hours and 56 minutes in real-time to complete as per NHL's statisticians.