You had to know the Canucks were going to correct some aspects of their game after the 2-1 loss to Florida on Monday night; it was impossible to come away from that one without having learned a lesson, right? Right. A lesson was indeed learned, and, as best as I can gather, it was as follows: before you quit, score more goals.
Not unlike the game that preceded it, the Canucks jumped out to an early lead and let their opponents back into the game with some sluggish play afterward, but the difference Tuesday was simply that the early lead was bigger, and they sustained it for longer. By the time the Lightning tied tied things up, it was too late to jump ahead, and the Canucks eked out a shootout victory to leave the Sunshine State on a positive note. And as for me, like the few Floridians sick and tired of that infomercial, I watched this game.
Canucks 5 – 4 Lightning (SO)
The Canucks scored early in this one, with Henrik Sedin winning a puck back to Alex Sulzer, who immediately fed Alex Edler for a shot and a goal. Initially, it looked as though Alex Burrows tipped it, meaning the scoring play would have been Alex, from Alex and Alex. It also would have been the rare scoring play where the two Canucks on the ice that didn’t get a point were Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Unfortunately, Burrows never tipped it, meaning Henrik got a point, and the Canuck version of Ed, Edd n’ Eddy never came to fruition. Lame.
Not long after, Jannik Hansen made it 2-0 after some quality forechecking with the Canucks shorthanded. Two things to notice here: 1) Hansen wins possession of the puck in the corner by slap-chopping Marty St. Louis’s stick out of his hands. 2) If you’re wondering why the stick winds up behind the net, it’s because Manny Malhotra just happens to kick the stick a little further away when he pivots. It’s a very tactical pivot. Ross Gellar would be proud of that pivot.
Malhotra’s sneakiness is very underrated. Case in point: his second period goal, which comes after he outsmarts Eric Brewer in front. Brewer has Malhotra fully covered before Mike Duco’s centring pass, but just as Duco receives the puck along the half-wall, Malhotra gets in close to Brewer and fakes like he’s going right. The moment Brewer bites, Malhotra goes left instead, getting in close and bringing his stick to the other side by lifting it over Brewer’s head. The sudden juke jams Brewer up, leaving him out of position. Furthermore, because Malhotra’s in so tight, Brewer can’t get his stick in to take away Malhotra’s stick or to clear the puck, allowing Malhotra multiple whacks at it for the goal. Like Lisa Simpson, Brewer was unable to stop the whacking. What he needed was Barry White.
After Vincent Lecavalier brought the Lightning to within one, the Canucks would restore the two-goal lead only seconds before the middle frame expired when Ryan Kesler jammed home a loose puck on a late odd-man rush. It’s interesting to note that this play develops after Alex Edler crushes Steven Stamkos along the near wall in the Canucks’ end. Stamkos is slow to get up, and with a player down, the Lightning’s 1-3-1 neutral zone trap falls apart. Suddenly, there’s space through the neutral zone, and the Canucks invade the space like space invaders. Except far more efficiently.
Speaking of Edler’s hits, he had 5 of them in this game. He’s looked a little shaky on this trip, especially once Sami Salo was hurt in Boston, but he was excellent Tuesday, with five hits, three blocked shots, and a goal. I don’t have anything funny to say about that.
Congratulations are in order for Mike Duco, and not just for collecting his first career point on Manny Malhotra’s goal. After his hit on Ed Jovanovski Monday night that led to the Dale Weise goal, he’s created a goal in two consecutive games now, and has to be making a good impression. Safe to say he’s done more with his brief callup than any of the other fourth liners have done with theirs. He’s also done a good job of playing smart, and I don’t just mean agitating within the rules: his average shift length Tuesday was a miniscule 23 seconds. Short shifts please the coach, and pleasing the coach is playing it smart.
Just as last season when the Canucks played the Lightning and Cory Schneider got the start, people began speculating that, perhaps, this was Mike Gillis’s attempt to showcase Schneider for Steve Yzerman, whose Lightning need a goaltender that isn’t old enough to call movies “talking pictures”. Schneider was fantastic, making 27 saves and stopping all 3 shootout attempts, but this whole line of thinking is silly. Maybe there was a time when you showcased a player when you visited a city, but if Steve Yzerman doesn’t have a scouting department, Centre Ice and the Internet, the Lightning have larger needs than a goalie.
The Sportsnet Intermission segments have been unbelievably bad for a couple years now, but the “Are You Kidding Me?!” bit reached a new low when Nick Kypreos took off his shoe and showed us his bunions like he mistook the television audience for nursing home orderlies. Shortly after, his grandson showed up and they spent the rest of the segment playing backgammon.
Did anyone else see Daniel Sedin throw a hipcheck in the third period? That would be an unexpected new wrinkle to their game.
Tampa Bay’s game-tying goal bore a suspicious resemblance to a certain 2010 playoff goal versus the LA Kings that was disallowed, which irked a great many Canuck fans upset when they got the call correct this time around. It made me chuckle. Fans only want the rules to apply when it benefits them. Otherwise, they provide precedent for disregarding it.
If it wasn’t apparent that the Canucks don’t take shootouts all that seriously, consider the selection of Kevin Bieksa as the first shooter in the shootout. That made very little sense. Amazingly, Vigneault’s initital shootout roster made even less sense. Rejected by referee Paul Devorski, it read: 1. Roberto Luongo. 2. Newell Brown. 3. Paul Devorski.
Anyway, Vigneault’s second shooter was no joke, as Mason Raymond won the game with that spin move he likes to do. Remember when Nikolai Khabibulin punched Ryan Shannon in the back of the head for it? Those days are long gone. Now goaltenders are used to it. After the move, Dwayne Roloson just dusted himself off like the antique he is.
And finally, Cody Hodgson played 16:41 in this game, a career-high for the kid. Maybe they were showcasing him?
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