It was clear that Roberto Luongo felt bad for his hometown Montreal Canadiens, who had only one win in their last six games going into their Thursday game against the Canucks, so he decided to spot them a three-goal lead. While charity in the NHL is appreciated when it’s the Sedins donating to BC Children’s Hospital or Paul Bissonnette taking homeless families to hockey games, it’s significantly less awesome when it’s helping out the already-privileged.
Fortunately, Luongo read some Ayn Rand during the second intermission and forswore charity in favour of the virtue of selfishness. I watched the Canucks come back like Dagny Taggart when I watched this game.
Canucks 4 – 3 Canadiens (SO)
Luongo didn’t look all that charitable on the Canadiens’ first goal as he immediately complained to the ref that he was interfered with as the puck went past. Sure enough, the replay showed Tomas Plekanec battling with Kevin Bieksa in front of the net and essentially punching Luongo in the chest as he was dropping into his butterfly, knocking him backwards into the net. But it was also Frederic St-Denis’s first ever NHL goal, and with Christmas around the corner, the referees couldn’t bear to see the look of disappointment that would have resulted if they called the goal back.
The goals on Luongo got progressively uglier as the game went on. While the first goal was blatant goaltender interference, the second was a well-placed wrist shot from the point with a screen in front, and the third was a wristshot on a 2-on-1 through his five-hole where Luongo should have had his stick down. The first wasn’t his fault, the second was a bit weak but excusable, and the third was so ugly that Daphne and Celeste received royalties.
Luongo owned up the awfulness of that goal, and was outstanding through the rest of the game, stopping all 14 shots through the rest of the game and all 3 shootout attempts, with his biggest save coming on Max Pacioretty in overtime. He went from goat to hero faster than Cecil Harvey.
Andrew Alberts, on the other hand, was a lot more like Edward Chris von Muir. Alain Vigneault chose to dress him as a forward on the fourth line, where he was functionally useless, much like a bard in Final Fantasy. He had a bad giveaway on his very first shift, then was on the ice for both of the Canadiens’ first two goals, looking like he had no idea what he was doing. It’s understandable that he looked that way, because he most likely didn’t.
The Canucks tend to thrive on open ice and this game was no exception: they scored three goals (plus one in the shootout) without scoring any at 5-on-5. They scored a shorthanded goal, a powerplay goal, and a goal at 4-on-4. Clearly, the Canucks need to start taking more penalties in order to open up more room on the ice. Then put the Sedins on penalty-killing duties to use that extra space on the cycle.
Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond got the comeback started after a Ryan Kesler penalty. The key to this shorthanded goal is Raymond not using his speed: instead of driving the net as defenceman Raphael Diaz expects, he hangs back, creating the perfect amount of space for him to corral the puck, toe drag it around the pokecheck, and wrist it past Carey Price. It showed a remarkable amount of cunning, lending credence to Harrison’s claim that Mason’s gone to the dark side.
Raymond had a fantastic game and was arguably the Canucks best forward. He had a whopping 11 attempted shots, although 7 of them were blocked. He had almost as many shots as a White Stripes music video.
One of those blocked shots found its way on to the stick of Cody “Silent G” Hodgson, who immediately whipped it stick side past Price. Since it wouldn’t be Cody Hodgson without a controversy (as well as some dark times), he had just one second more icetime than Andrew Alberts through two periods, reigniting the claims that “Vigneault hates Hodgson.” Of course, Alberts didn’t play a single shift after two periods and Hodgson was then the first shooter in the shootout. I, for one, am confused.
Jannik “Danish Ninja” Hansen was quietly superb, notching an assist on the Raymond goal to extend his point-streak to 4 games, drawing the penalty that lead to Hodgson’s 4-on-4 goal, and setting up Kesler for a glorious chance to tie the game. Hansen created a turnover on the forecheck, then smartly slipped it back to Kesler at the faceoff dot, who forced Price to make the best save of the game.
That could have been it for the Canucks, but fortunately, Lars Eller took an idiotic crosschecking penalty in the offensive zone, giving the Canucks a powerplay with five minutes remaining. Sami Salo drilled a rolling puck top corner. You could tell that Price had trouble seeing past Travis Moen, who was watching Salo on the point, as Price got down low in an attempt to see the shot. Unfortunately for him, the puck didn’t go low. Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite, it went high above.
The only time that Bob Cole’s infamous play call “Everything is happening” would be applicable is whenever Keith Ballard is on the ice. Ballard is, as Cam Charron would define him, a high-event player: lots of shots against and, hopefully, even more shots for. He’s also the kind of guy, however, who can make something happen out of nothing, like he did during overtime, rushing the puck up ice, awkwardly barging through almost the entire Canadiens’ roster before poking it through to Daniel who set up Henrik for the best scoring chance in the extra frame.
I’m often a bit put out when games go to the shootout; I generally prefer hockey games to be decided by hockey. This time I didn’t mind at all. This was an exhausting, tense game and the shootout, with it’s one-thing-happening-at-a-time-with-breaks-in-between was just the antidote.
Luongo gets frequently criticized for his work in shootouts, but he was stellar against the Canadiens: he snagged Desharnais’ attempt with a quick glove, then refused to bite on Pacioretty’s change of speed, giving him nothing to shoot at. Finally, with the chance to win the game, Luongo stayed right with Cammalleri and blockered away his wrist shot. Most importantly for his critics, he didn’t once end up on his belly.
Because of Luongo’s tending of the goal, we only saw two Canucks shooters and they really only needed one. Silent G sent Price to the ice with a nifty shoulder shimmy, then lodged the puck in the top of the net. Maybe next game he’ll get more than 11 minutes of ice time.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]