One day while growing up on my parents’ farm, I was playing outside with a couple friends. It was summer and were having a water fight, running through the fields. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and I was laughing. Life could not have been better.
Then I ran full-speed, directly into an electric fence along the cattle run. It hit me directly in the gut, simultaneously taking my feet out from under me and shocking me. Normally when you get shocked by an electric fence, you pull away immediately. Since I was running, I couldn’t pull away from the wire. Also, I was wet from the water fight. I went from joyful laughing to dry heaving in an instant. It felt like I had been punched in the gut and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough oxygen in my lungs.
The end of this game was like an electric wire to the gut of the Canucks, except it wasn’t a fence built for cows — it was one of the fences from Jurassic Park. I needed Dr. Alan Grant to perform CPR after I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 3 Sharks (OT)
Many will tell you that the only two Canucks who showed up tonight were Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo. Don’t believe them. The Canucks as a whole were vastly improved from game one, with the Sedins and Burrows playing particularly well. The top line finished with 11 shots on net and created numerous scoring chances, but, like a lucky blind fish, couldn’t find the back of the net.
Ryan Kesler was clearly the best Canucks skater, though not for the entire game. In the first period, when he was playing on the wing with Roy at centre, Kesler was on the ice for numerous scoring chances for the Sharks. It was only when he was moved back to centre that Kesler transformed into beast mode and began to dominate the game. Essentially, playing at centre in the playoffs is to Kesler as an energon radiation overload is to Beast Wars-era Transformers.
One of the reasons that Kesler needed to move back to centre is that Maxim Lapierre just wasn’t able to cut it in the faceoff circle, going 2-for-8 and 1-for-4 in the defensive zone. Kesler ended up taking 15 of the Canucks’ 24 defensive zone faceoffs, impressively winning 12 of them. Henrik also turned things around after his struggles in game one, winning 12-of-20 faceoffs, including 9-of-10 in the offensive zone.
I hate to bring up reffing, particularly in a loss, as it tends to sound like sour grapes. With this game, however, it’s unavoidable and we’ll just have to make a little wine. The Canucks were called for five penalties in this game, with two of them extremely questionable and one just blatantly wrong. Jason Garrison’s soft cross-check to TJ Galiardi after Galiardi cross-checked him in the face was bad, especially considering what tends to go uncalled in the playoffs, but it’s at least understandable to call a retaliation to avoid escalation. Alex Burrows getting a goaltender interference penalty after being pushed into Antti Niemi, however, was tougher to swallow.
The worst call of the game came when the Canucks got their first powerplay of the game, only to have it end on the ensuing faceoff when Henrik Sedin was called for delay of game for using his hand to win the faceoff. It’s a new rule this season that was meant to make winning faceoffs easier for the attacking team in the offensive zone. Only problem is that Henrik didn’t use his hand to win the faceoff. Instead, he swept it back with the shaft of his stick while on his knees. His hands never left his stick. The second worst call of the game came from Ray Ferraro as he repeatedly said that Henrik used his hand to win the faceoff over top of the replay showing the exact opposite.
Roberto Luongo was, once again, outstanding, except for when he had to make a save, in which case he was outbutterflying for the most part. For the Sharks, he was the first stage of grief: denial. He denied Galiardi in alone with his right pad, then denied Brad Stuart from the slot. In the third, he denied Andrew Desjardins, getting just enough of the puck to deflect it off the post. His best save came on Raffi Torres in the second period, as Torres had a yawning cage but was stifled by a diving Luongo.
Alex Edler played nearly 29 minutes in this game and, for the most part, was quite good. It was those least parts, however, that caused the problem. The Sharks opened the scoring after the puck pinballed in front of the net until Joe Thornton could swipe it past Luongo. Standing in front, failing to tie up Thornton’s stick and, in fact, dropping his own stick? Edler. It all happened awfully quickly, but that’s why you tie up your check’s stick first and find the puck second.
The Canucks began taking over the game in the second period, out-shooting the Sharks 14-8. Kesler began asserting himself physically. On one shift, he threw Joe Pavelski aside while gaining the offensive zone, then began barrelling into every player with a hint of teal on their jersey. The shift ended with Tommy Wingels cross-checking Kesler in the face, which, of course, Kesler embellished a bit to draw the penalty. It was the embellishment that sealed it: Kesler was back.
Kesler sent a message at the end of the second period, running over Justin Braun along the boards, then yelling at the Sharks bench, “There’s more where that came from.” He then went into an interview with Farhan Lalji and declared, “We’re going to find a way to tie this game up and find a way to get ahead.” In the third period, Kesler took it upon himself to fulfil that promise.
The Canucks tied the game on the powerplay in typical fashion. The Sedins created space with their cycle game, then set up the one-timer from the point with Burrows screening in front. The main difference is that it wasn’t a defenceman like Edler or Garrison taking the slapshot; it was Kesler, who placed the puck perfectly in the top corner like he was arranging a curio cabinet.
Kesler then scored the go-ahead goal after a terrible turnover by Pavelski, who deflected a Dan Boyle outlet pass right onto Kesler’s stick in the slot, who wired it like emergency funds to a teenager who got mugged while on a European vacation. Since Kesler is an exceedingly humble individual, he then proceeded to mime ripping open his shirt as if he were Superman.
It wouldn’t be the Canucks without some crushing disappointment, of course. After Jannik Hansen missed an empty net from centre, the Sharks came back and, with a minute remaining, tied up the game. There’s plenty of blame to go around: Henrik Sedin can take some of it for throwing the puck into the slot while defending a one-goal lead in the dying minutes instead of keeping the puck along the boards. Daniel Sedin can take some for inexplicably sliding to block a non-existent shot. You can blame Vigneault for putting out the Sedins to defend a lead in the final minutes. Or you can blame Luongo for not quite squeezing his pads tight enough on Patrick Marleau’s initial shot, allowing the puck to trickle through behind him for Marleau to tuck into the net. Or you can blame the fickle finger of fate for making you a Canucks fan.
The Canucks came agonizingly close to winning the game in overtime, as Daniel deflected an Edler point shot off the crossbar. Had that puck gone in, the narratives of this game would have shifted completely. No one would be talking about Edler’s struggles. No one would be questioning the Sedins. No one would be wondering about the Canucks’ heart. It’s amazing what a difference a few inches make.
That’s what she said.
Instead, Raffi Torres won the game for the Sharks after Edler had a shot blocked that turned into a 2-on-1 the other way. Kevin Bieksa, a man who has been addicted to sliding on the ice in the past, stayed on his feet and couldn’t block Brent Burns’ cross-ice feed, leaving Torres with an easy goal and leaving the Canucks with a tough row to hoe.
For Canucks fans, it was a lousy end to what was actually a pretty great game. Do you need something to put a smile back on your face? I recommend a healthy does of Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.
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