You could be forgiven if you expected a meeting between the struggling Canucks and the goal-starved Predators to be a boring, defensive affair. After all, the Canucks hadn’t scored more than 2 goals since March 2nd against the Kings and the Predators were missing Colin Wilson, their leading scorer. The last meeting between these two teams ended 1-0 thanks to a lucky bounce that gave Dale “The Flying Dutchman” Weise a wide open net. The two teams are 12th and 29th in goals-per-game. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game.
Oh how wrong you were, hypothetical cynic. The Canucks and Predators combined for 11 goals in an offensive slug-fest, which is fortunately not a festival for slugs as that would have left the ice a gross, slimy mess. Other than slugs, this game had it all. I watched this game.
Canucks 7 – 4 Predators
It took a minute-and-a-half for the Canucks to open the scoring, as Jannik Hansen took advantage of a hesitant Pekka Rinne to poke the puck away on the forecheck and centre for Andrew Ebbett, who scored his first goal of the season. Also scoring his first goal of the season was David Booth, hitting the empty net at the end of the game. I only bring it up now because I really want Ebbett and Booth to be on the same line so I can call them Ebb and Flow.
Steve Pinizzotto finally made his NHL debut and made a serious impact on his very first shift. That impact happened to be on Nashville defenceman Kevin Kline, as he walloped him with a massive hit on the forecheck. Kline, who had just 4 fights in his career, challenged Pinizzotto, who happily accepted and fairly clearly won a short, mismatched bout. Pinizzotto finished with 1 shot and 4 hits in 11 minutes of ice time.
While Pinizzotto’s debut and Ebbett’s return to the Canucks’ lineup went swimmingly, scoring a goal and adding 2 assists, Kevin Bieksa’s return from injury was a bit of disaster. He was on the ice for 3 of the Predators’ 4 goals, earning himself a fair share of the blame each time. On the Predators’ first goal, he was too slow to move the puck, turning it over to Matt Halischuk, who got a shot away, then picked up his own rebound and stuffed it past Roberto Luongo on the wraparound. It’s not really Bieksa’s fault, though: he saw the “H” and the “chuk” on the back of his jersey and assumed it was Darcy Hordichuk, in which case giving the puck to him would have been a smart tactical move.
A minute-and-a-half later, the Canucks went back up by one. Henrik Sedin won a faceoff in the offensive zone to Chris Tanev, who quickly settled the puck before setting up Alex Edler for a one-timer. There was no traffic in front of Pekka Rinne, but Edler’s shot sizzled past his glove all the same. Considering there is an actual, literal black hole within Rinne’s glove, Edler’s shot must have been faster than the speed of light to avoid slipping past the event horizon and never escaping.
The Canucks’ third goal was a thing of beauty. Andrew Alberts made a great pass to Kevin Bieksa, who fed Hansen for a 3-on-2 the other way. Hansen dropped the puck for Ebbett, who then fed it across to Mason Raymond, who had slowed up to create the passing lane. His one-timer went back against the grain on the sliding Rinne, who, like a game of Monopoly at a garage sale, had no chance.
In case the excitement of a high-scoring game wasn’t enough, the first intermission gave us the high comedy of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider riffing on their supposedly contentious relationship, courtesy of James Duthie, with the outtakes at the end providing some golden moments. The media blows, that’s it, that’s all.
Remarkably, all 11 goals in this game came at even-strength, as the Canucks, of course, didn’t score on their 2 powerplays and they killed off all 4 of the Predators’. At the end of one of those kills, Raymond deflected a pass from David Legwand right onto the stick of Weise, who sprung Maxim Lapierre, who had been in the box, on a breakaway. He made no mistake, finishing both the scoring chance and Rinne’s night. It was the third straight game in Vancouver that Pekka Rinne has been pulled.
The Predators answered right back, scoring their second goal while Lapierre’s goal was still being announced. Nick Spaling’s centring pass banked off Kevin Bieksa’s skate and in. Bieksa’s bad luck didn’t end there: towards the end of the second, he got called for slashing when he hit Craig Smith in the face with his stick. Thing is, Smith’s face was about a foot off the ice at the time as he toe-picked and fell forward. It’s arguable whether Bieksa slashed Smith’s face or Smith head-butted Bieksa’s stick.
Hansen scored an odd one to put the Canucks back up by three. After chipping the puck past Ryan Ellis at his own blue line, he took advantage of Scott Hannan stumbling to the ice and drove to the net. Ellis managed to get back in time to cut him off, but lost an edge and collided with Chris Mason, while simultaneously deflecting Hansen’s centring pass into the net. But if you were just listening to Chris Cuthbert, it was one of the most beautiful goals ever scored. What a goal! Jannik Hansen! The only time a lucky bounce deserves that much excitement is when you’re playing Plinko on The Price is Right.
Luongo didn’t have his best game of the season, but he came up big several times in the second and third as the Predators out-shot the Canucks 26 to 12 to try and mount a comeback. His most remarkable save came on Shea Weber. Expecting the slapshot, Luongo came way out to cut off the angle. Instead, Weber faked the slapshot and went around Luongo, who stuck out his stick in desperation and deflected Weber’s shot over the glass.
Zack “Two-Face” Kassian had an odd game. At times he looked like the effective power forward he has the potential to be, while at other times he made poor decisions with the puck. In the first period, he delivered a fantastic hit on Roman Josi leading to a scoring chance in front that Kassian just couldn’t connect on. On his next shift, he drove wide on Victor Bartley, then went hard to the net, drawing a penalty. It looked like he was all set for a great game, but on a later shift with the Sedins, he gave the puck away with an ill-advised drop pass. He did the same in the third period, then got back hard on defence, only to have his attempted clear deflect out front to Mike Fisher, who scored the Predators’ third goal. He was benched for the rest of the game, only getting back on the ice when the game was out of reach after Booth’s empty netter. Kassian has all sorts of potential, but has been about as consistent as the tone of Dark Shadows.
In a seven-goal game, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows managed to finish without a point. Daniel came close to scoring in the third, missing an open net from a bad angle. Immediately after, the Predators got the puck in deep, won a puck battle with Alex Edler, and got the puck to Gabriel Bourque in front, who tucked it past Luongo. Bieksa was far too complacent behind the net, waiting for Edler to get the puck to him instead of taking his man, Legwand, but neither the Sedins nor Burrows covered Bourque in front either. Really, you’d expect one of the Swedes to head straight for a guy named Bourque.
Henrik made up for his missed defensive assignment on his next shift, busting up the middle with authority and heading in for a breakaway, forcing Sergei Kostitsyn to hook him, earning a penalty shot. Henrik’s move was magnificent and truly wizardous, as he waved his stick over the puck like a magic wand, creating the illusion of a deke, before unleashing the magic of his actual deke, sending Chris Mason sliding right out of the net. It was the perfect move for Henrik, as it allowed him to pass the puck into the empty net instead of shooting it.
I already mentioned Booth’s empty net goal, but I need to point out how unselfish Lapierre was on the play. Having already scored in the game and knowing how snakebitten Booth has been (he may have been testing Mark 16:18, which isn’t advisable), Lapierre passed the puck across to Booth instead of trying to score himself. Booth’s teammates on the ice all smiled and laughed and hugged him. It was almost like they actually liked the guy, which can’t be true, since I’ve been convinced that he must be a terrible teammate and a cancer in the room, since he hunts in his spare time.
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