PIC OF THE GAME
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Steve Bernier has sent more grade-A scoring chances into the goalie's pads and chest this season than he'd care to remember, so the Vancouver forward wasn't complaining about a lucky goal Friday night.
Bernier scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period on a deflection off an opponent's skate, and the Canucks kept Tampa Bay winless in Vancouver with a 2-1 victory Friday night.
Bernier's wraparound attempt was cut off by defenseman Josef Melichar at the side of the net, so the big forward spun back to the goal line and threw a backhander toward the goal. The puck bounced off Vincent Lecavalier's skate and under goalie Kari Ramo, giving Bernier his first goal in nine games.
"This year has been tough," Bernier said. "You score a goal and miss a couple each game and it's tough for momentum. The most important thing is keep working hard every game and if you keep working hard those kinds of goals are going to happen and it's going to help you to build your confidence."
With 13 goals and 21 games left, Bernier is still on pace to break his three-season career average of 15. But the 6-foot-3 Canucks power forward has had enough prime chances from right in front of the net to have doubled that total already.
"So many times you got good chances and don't score and it's one of those, a lucky goal," he said. "We'll take it and hopefully the confidence keeps building."
Defenseman Alex Edler also scored, and Roberto Luongo
made 20 saves as Vancouver won for the ninth time in 11 games in February, and moved into sole possession of fifth place in the tightly packed Western Conference playoff race.
Pavol Demitra, playing despite having the tip of his left pinky finger broken by a slash Tuesday night in Montreal, added two assists for the Canucks - five points clear of a four-way tie for the final two postseason spots in the West.
"As a team we weren't where we wanted to be after 40 minutes but we came out and had a good third period and found a way to win," Luongo said after his team struggled returning from a four-game cross-Canada road trip. "I don t know if it was coming back from a long road trip or what, but it took us a little while to get our legs. But we found a way to win and that s what counts at the end of the day."
Rookie Steven Stamkos scored, and Ramo made 23 saves as the Lightning, 13th in the Eastern Conference, fell to 1-5-1 in the last seven games.
"They're playing for playoffs and we're playing for pride right now and I think the guys did a heck of a job," said Tampa Bay veteran Mark Recchi, whose assist gave him 40 points this season.
Not just an offensive threat, but made the smart outlet passes when nobody else would. Great game for Alex.
Had the goal and should have had two more. Puck was around him all night - especially around Lui's crease.
More than 23 minutes on the ice and most of them solid minutes. Along with Edler, was a catalyst for most of the breakouts.
Lecavalier almost tied it in a scramble with 5 seconds left, but couldn't jam a loose puck past the skate of defenseman Sami Salo
into an empty net as Tampa Bay remained the only NHL team to never win in Vancouver, with only two ties to show for 11 visits since the franchise started playing in 1992.
"That's typical of what's been going on," Recchi said. "You create your own bounces and we haven't played well enough all year to deserve some of them but tonight we did. Tonight was one of those games you feel you deserve it."
Canucks center Ryan Kesler
was penalized for delay of game at the final buzzer after closing his hand on the puck as time wound down in the ensuing scramble, but he wasn't in the crease so there was no penalty shot.
"Actually, it was pretty smart by him," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "As long as it s not in the crease, I would have done the same."
Ramo made a couple of good early saves, including stopping Alex Burrows in alone one minute into the game, before Edler opened the scoring on a power play one-timer from the high slot midway through the first period.
Ramo, who faced 40-plus shots in each of his last four starts, was only tested three times in the next 20 minutes, but one was a great glove save on another power play blast through a screen. The fifth shot he saw was a shoulder stop on Henrik Sedin
on a 2-on-1, and the sixth a left pad save as the puck was crossing the goal line after Sedin tried to wrap in the rebound on the other side.
"He played really well," Tocchet said about Ramo. "I think both goalies were the stars of the game. They made the saves when they had to."
Stamkos, the first pick in last summer's draft, tied it on a scramble less than a minute later, putting his 12th goal into an empty net after Recchi slid a loose puck through the crease. The goal stood after a lengthy video review failed to produce conclusive evidence Sedin's wraparound completely crossed the goal line - though most of the puck appeared over - at the other end first.
"With the luck we ve had with goal reviews this year I thought for sure it would have 1/8been called back 3/8," said Stamkos, adding he's already had two goals taken away. "I think I would have set a record for disallowed goals."
Despite that, Stamkos has 12 goals and 27 points in 58 games.
Notes: Vancouver D Ossi Vaananen, acquired off waivers from Philadelphia earlier in the day, did not play. ... Linesman Brad Lazarowich was working his 1,500th game and in a pregame presentation that included his family, received a crystal plaque from NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom. ... The Canucks are 14-4-2 overall against Tampa Bay, and the Lightning have been outscored 47-19 in Vancouver.