Maybe the Olympic break was all this team needed after all. After 17 days of, the Canucks returned to Rogers Arena Wednesday night to face the St. Louis Blues, looking to snap a seven game losing streak. After a flurry of chances on net, Jannik Hansen provided the only goal Vancouver would need in a 1-0 win over the Blues.
Three minutes in, the Canucks got their first chance at improving on the power play when the Blues were called for too many men on the ice, but would come up empty. Not that any of us really had any expectations in the opening minutes after an Olympic break.
Vancouver had their first quality scoring chance when Zack Kassian had an open shot on net, but couldn’t get it past Jaroslav Halak.
Moments later, the Blues had their chance to open the scoring when Roman Polak attempted to center a pass back to former Canuck Derek Roy. The puck would actually deflect off Jason Garrison’s skate who had come diving in to try and break up the play. Fortunately for the Canucks, the puck went off the post and the net would become dislodged.
Another chance on net came with five minutes left as Kevin Bieksa fired a shot on net that deflected off Halak just enough to give Brad Richardson a couple jabs at it to put some pressure on net.
The Canucks would get their second power play at 1:26 after a hooking call. David Booth and Kassian were in the middle of a give-and-go when Kassian drew the hooking penalty against Brenden Morrow. The power play, which extended about 30 seconds into the second period, would once again come up empty.
Vancouver managed 14 shots on net during the opening period, but couldn’t convert any into goals. Stop me if you’ve heard that narrative before.
Just 52 seconds into the period, St. Louis was called for another penalty when Alexander Steen was sent off for hooking against Alex Burrows, giving the Canucks another chance on the power play. Same story though as the game remained scoreless.
The Blues got their first chance on the power play at 6:23 in the second period when Jason Garrison was sent off for cross-checking. St. Louis got one good look on net but that was about it as the Canucks killed the penalty with relative ease.
Midway through the period, Jordan Schroeder rushed into the St. Louis zone after forcing a turnover, but the centering pass to Jannik Hansen deflected off his skate, eliminating the scoring chance. Vancouver’s ability to handle the puck on rushes like that have been a noticeable problem this year. When you have scoring issues like the Canucks do, you can’t be giving away opportunities like that.
With just under three minutes left in the second period, Henrik Sedin was sent off for high sticking. On the power play, "American hero" T.J. Oshie had a great chance on net, but was stopped by Alex Edler who redeemed his first period face plant with a kick save, doing Lack’s dirty work for him.
Despite 28 shots on net through two periods for the Canucks, the game would remain scoreless heading to the third.
The Canucks finally broke through in the third period with a goal from Jannik Hansen. The play started with a perfect clearing pass from Tom Sestito up to Hansen, who beat out the Blues defense to snipe a shot past Halak to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The goal was Hansen’s 10th of the season. The goal was Vancouver’s first third period goal from a forward since January 10. That’s how bad the third period has been for Vancouver has been lately. As Eddie Lack said after the game, it was a huge relief.
It turns out that Hansen’s goal would be all that Vancouver would need to hang on for the win. Lack supplied the Canucks with his third shutout of the year, stopping all 20 of the Blues’ shots on goal.
The win snapped Vancouver's longest losing streak since 1999.
More than half of those shots came during the second period as St. Louis managed only three shots on goal during the third period. It’s almost as if they were hoping for a shootout and just send T.J. Oshie out there as many times as were permitted.
Sure, the scoring troubles weren’t solved in this game. But for this team, this late in the season, every point counts. Vancouver might miss the playoffs, they might not. With the win, Vancouver squeaked back into the final playoff spot. Pending some kind of miracle, Vancouver will probably be in unfamiliar territory if they do make the playoffs. Asking for home ice in the playoffs after a season like this is just plain greedy. I’ll welcome an 8-seed with open arms. You know why? Because it means we get to live to see another day, when 14 other teams don’t.
So keep those chins up, because this Olympic break very well could be just what the doctor ordered for the Canucks.