You know how it goes. A team rallies behind a slight, real or imagined, and goes on a tear. Everyone credits the perceived slight as the "rallying cry", and a good time is had by all on the way to riches and fame.
Now, I am not saying that this game, or the #FreeTorts hashtag is the impetus for that. In fact, the Canucks had a third period that was lacking at times, and the power play is still in the doldrums.
But they did play very hard tonight. And Alexandre Burrows is not going to be snakebitten forever ( though it must feel like that, as he had a couple good chances to get his first of the season again tonight ). Bottom line though, when you have a goaltender as locked in as Roberto Luongo was tonight, all the other foibles can be dealt with. He was very deserving of the 1st star designation he was given tonight.
EXTRASKATER.COM ( the Canucks even won the Corsi and Fenwick on the night, even with that 3rd period ! )
The talk from the Oilers and their fans was all about playing hard and making the fans forget the "insult" of their owner's letter to the fans. The long suffering fans there are looking for anything to feel good about. To that end, the secondary "talk" had to be "making Zack Kassian pay". While Gadzic did challenge Kass' tonight on multiple occasions, the second year power forward, ( quite rightly, he was needed on the ice ) kept his composure, and in a tight game, realized that actually playing hockey was more important than letting the Oilers feel good about retribution.
The Canucks had most of the jump in the beginning of this one, and were rewarded when the Puck Gods smiled upon Kellan Lain about five minutes in. After his initial 0:02 first game, in front of family who flew in, no less, he earned his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot, and it was your basic meat and potatoes kind of goal. Tom Sestito made a nice play to spring Dale Weise, who got off a hard shot on Scrivens ( who, really, has to be a bit more aware after the save than THAT! ), who left a juicy rebound in front for Lain to muscle his way to and poke in.
There was a fight in the first period, but it was Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Jones. Jones thought he had the best of the hard rock defenseman when he got the jersey up over his head, but he obviously doesn't know that Juice will just keep throwing them, even blinded. It must be depressing to lose a fight to a guy who you have "jerseyed".
- The Canucks had the edge in shots ( and play ) in the first, at 9-6, while the stats guy got his team a big lead in hits with a 10-3 count after twenty minutes ( honestly, I saw the 4th line throw more than 3 hits for the visitors ).
- The Canucks edged the home team 11-10 on draws, with Dalpe the best at 5 of 7 draws won.
- Luongo only had to make 6 saves in this period. He was just getting started.
The Canuck power play had a chance just 32 seconds in to make this game a little less tense, but it is still in the struggling portion of the season. I really am not sure what it is at this point. There are a lot of guys that have had past successes on this power play, but they sure aren't making teams pay yet. It can't just be missing Henrik Sedin ( missing his first game since 2003, after 679 straight ). They had some chances on the evening, but just can't break out. Yet. Maybe the Predators PK is in line for a drop off like the Canucks' was in Anaheim. ( the Canucks are no longer the #1 PK, as both the Penguins and Devils have passed them by )
One person you can't blame on the PK is the goaltender. After they were strong killing off a late 1st period man disadvantage, it was all Luongo on the second one, as the Oilers buzzed the net. Luongo made some amazing saves, and had a little help from his " thin red friend" on a Hall shot as well.
Not long after, another hard working play resulted in the visiting team's second goal, as Daniel Sedin won the puck behind the net, Kesler supported him well, and found Kassian coming off the bench in the slot with a nice pass. The shot was definitely too much for Scrivens to handle, as Kassian whipped it off the post and in for a 2-0 lead.
The Canucks could have made it 3-0 not long after, but a Higgins breakaway was denied. I am sure he was just looking for the puck as he and his check went to the corner, but the head snap drew the referee's attention, and Higgy would get called for elbowing on a play he looked as puzzled by as I was. There was some bit of the elbow there, I guess, but if refs are going to call that play like that, we might as well just make the game non contact ! Oh well. They don't get the replays like we do. ( and this is not to harangue the refs. I have always said they have the toughest job in sports, policing the fastest continuous action game on the planet )
It would be on another Oiler power play ( on a Bieksa high stick call that didn't, from the replay shown, anyhow, look like there was any contact to the face of Taylor Hall, who laid on the ice like he was shot ) that Luongo made his best save of the night, robbing Eberle down low with the blocker where it looked like it was a sure goal. Olympic form for sure. You saw that, right Stevie Y' and Mike Babcock? He also got a little help from the "thin red friend" again, as his metal buddy denied Perron.
- After a period where the Oilers had three power plays to the Canucks' one, the Canucks still outshot them 13-10, for a 22-17 edge after 40 minutes.
- The stats guy decided to just do copy and paste on the hit count in that period as well, as he saw it, again, as a 10-3 edge, to make the tally 20-6.
- Powered by The Nuge going 4 of 5 in the period ( and 8 of 12 after two periods ), the Oilers now led the faceoff battle 22-20. Dalpe was still the best Canuck, at 6 for 10 after two periods.
You can point to "score effects", as the team in the lead usually does sit back a bit, and the team looking to come back usually pushes the play, but the third period was, mostly, all Oilers. Sure the Canucks had a few chances against the run of play ( maybe the best was Zac Dalpe on the rush, cutting in and being denied. He also had a great chance in the first from the slot, but couldn't finish that one either ), but it was definitely Luongo's time to shine. He had another assist from his "thin red friend" in the third, as Eberle rang one off the post ( and, really, ask any goaltender. They will tell you those are not "luck", just "all I gave him to shoot at was the post" ).
Again, the Canucks had their chances on the power play ( two opportunities, actually ), but just couldn't do too much with them. Shorty's comment of "at the very least, it will take another couple minutes off the board with a 2-0 lead" kind of summed it up for the power play on this night.
The Oilers would wreck the shutout, as Hall danced Alexander Edler ( who didn't have the best of games tonight ) at the line and fed Gagner, who put it on net and forced a tremendous save. The momentum of he and Tanev sliding into the net took Luongo out of the play, and the puck leaked out from his pads, where Hall got it to Eberle for the empty net goal that Luongo could do little with.
The Oilers pushed to get the equalizer, but credit the Canucks for some hard work in their own end. After not playing to the whistle, and giving up a bit of a cheap one, they blocked shots, had great sticks, and got some great saves when needed from the Olympic #1 goaltender ( sorry Carey Price ) to seal this win.
- The Oilers dominated the circle in the third, winning 14 draws and only losing 4 in the final stanza. Boyd Gordon led the way, going 15 of 24, and The Nuge was 11 of 17. Dalpe was the best on the night for the Canucks, at 8 of 16 draws won, while Kesler fell off the cliff, ending up winning only 7 of 24 draws.
- Stats guy saw fit to even it up a bit on the hits, giving the Oilers an -8-7 edge in the third for a 28-13 edge overall. OK then!
- Roberto Luongo was the #1 star, on the road, and rewarded the masses of Canuck fans ( who had the dueling chants going with the hometwon fans all night ) by actually coming out and giving away the stick, as is his custom. His .966 save % in this one really should have been a 1.000 %, but oh well. Two points is two points. He looked good in the Haida Hat tonight.