Ah yes, Florida. Home of sun, guns, and a whole lotta no state taxes fun ( don't kid yourself, that had as much to do with wanting to "go home" as the deep family ties ) . Also, now home to Roberto Luongo, on a year round, instead of just in the offseason. Once the Canucks gave into his wishes and traded him back to Florida, you just knew that this matchup would have all sorts of additional "juice".
We love Strombone1 around here, and of course thank Roberto for all his superlative efforts while in Blue and Green. But he is not a Canuck any more, and didn't want to be one for about two years before the trade. So, the team moves on, without their best goalie in team history ( To most. The short crease reign of Gary "Suitcase" Smith was pretty awesome, and to me, if you are a co-winner of the Vezina, you get the nod ), as they tried to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with two points today.
The visiting team certainly came out like they wanted those two points to start this one. While there were not a lot of shots for either team in the first few minutes, the Canucks did have the edge in play. Perhaps Krys Barch felt that, or maybe him and Tom Sestito just do not like each other, but the game only got to the 8 minute mark when both decided it was time for some fisticuffs. While I am not sure if it "got the team going" on either side, it was a spirited tilt that probably went to the Canuck on the judges' scorecards.
It has to be said, and this is without any animus or biased judgement. The referees looked like they were out way too late for an afternoon game in this one. Most the penalties were fairly light, or simply not calls that get made in most games. There were definitely infractions, to be fair. It is just that most of them were pretty damn light.
The penalty on Chris Higgins that led to the opening goal was a prime example. As the defenseman went back to retrieve a puck, Higgins very slightly nudged Upshall along the boards. Sure, technically, that is interference. But it is also exactly what the GM's were saying the refs should NOT be calling, to better protect defensemen in today's fast game.
No matter. The judgement was made, and the worst power play in the NHL actually look pretty decent. They through it around well, and a Tom Gilbert shot was deflected by Jimmy Hayes past Eddie Lack to make it 1-0. The Canucks did not get down though, and got some puck luck soon afterwards, when a Dan Hamhuis shot bounced off two guys in front to get by Luongo. That was followed less than a minute later by a nice goal by Poutine and Danish Meatballs, as Niklas Jensen took a nice pass from his captain and ripped it for his second in two games from the slot. The kid had a great game today, and is getting better every game.
1st Period stats that caught my eye :
- David Booth. He may have permanently broken sights on his sticks, but he led everyone in the game with 4 hits.
- Alexandre Burrows had a rich and full stat line tonight. His 1st period ? 2 assists, +2, 2 PIM, 2 hits in 6:15 TOI.
- The Canucks had an 11-9 edge in shots, while losing twice as many draws ( 14-7 after one period ) as they won.
The second period was more even than the first, as the home team had some periods of pressure, and the Canucks also responded in kind. Both teams had another power play to work out the kinks, and while the Canuck power play has looked fantastic ( comparatively ) on this trip, they could not cash in on their opportunity in the second period. Let's face it though. The shots were 6 - 6 in this period. Sure, the goalies both made a nice save here or there, but it was nothing to write home about. What stats caught the eye after 40 minutes ?
- Henrik Sedin. After going 3 for 6 after one period, he won 7 straight to be 10 for 13 after two.
- Jannik Hansen. Doubled up his shot total after one to lead the team after two with 4 shots.
- David Booth was bringing the pain. 4 more hits to bring his two period total to 8. Most of those were "impactful".
- Shawn Matthias had something to prove in this game. He was flying every shift, had 3 of 4 shots force a save, and 2 hits total after two periods. His only downside was only going 4 for 12 on draws after 40 minutes.
The final period was the most entertaining for the decent sized crowd in Sunrise Florida. Perhaps that was because the Panthers tied it up just four minutes in, on an egregious turnover by Alexander Edler, whose nightmare season continues. Instead of throwing the puck hard around the boards, he pretty well passed it to Howden, who gave it to Trocheck, who beat a scrambling Eddie Lack on the wraparound to make it 2 - 2, Eddy wasn't the only one to make defensive lapses ( and the Canucks this year, that might be the biggest difference, as they get puck chasing in their own end pretty easily, and did so at times today as well ), but that gift was so indicative of his season to date.
Again though, credit the Canucks, who got the lead back a little over a minute later. It was on the power play, for a change, as Scottie Upshall committed the cardinal sin of an offensive zone penalty, with a definite trip on Hamhuis. This one was, again, on a set play, as Henrik Sedin won a draw, Jensen got it back to Edler, whose shot was saved by, as Cheech calls it "Luongo's freakishly long leg". Burrows hung in strong in front, and was denied on his first stab at the puck, before slipping home the rebound with Luongo sprawled in the crease. How that play resulted in an "unassisted" goal is interesting, but no matter.
Kevin Bieksa also prevented a goal in this one, with the goaltender out of the crease, as he used his soccer skills to kick out a sure goal. Check it out in the video above. Great stuff Juice !
The Canucks looked like they would be putting this one away in regulation, as they ate up shifts with good positional play to frustrate the Panthers. It looked even better with about 6 minutes left, as Brad Boyes got Henrik Sedin in the chicklets with an errant stick, drawing a double minor. The Canuck power play was excellent, and had several chances down low, and with screens. Credit Roberto Luongo for the saves, and maybe some lousy puck luck for Burrows, and a couple others. They seemed to be trying the back door play on the power play all game, and a couple whiffs prevented that from being more successful.
So, with less than two minutes left, just nurse it home, right ? Wellllll.....perhaps. I'll cut Edler a wee bit of slack, as the call was slightly weak, but he was a bit too "handsy" while checking Pirri, and drew the crucial penalty with 1:51 left.
It wasn't Edler's fault on the tying goal though. That lays at the feet of both Tanev and Hamhuis. They may be the best pairing the Canucks have by their play, but Tanev went too far from the front to try and block Campbell's shot, and Hamhuis left Jimmy Hayes WAY too alone in front. Lack made a great save on the shot, but Hayes had all day to put it away.
As the game went to O/T, the Canucks almost blew it in the five minute period, as Lack was scrambling all over after an initial save. But he got back into position to glove the shot pretty well too, so credit him for that. It was the best chance for either team in the extra period, and we were headed to the
tiddlywinks, arm wrestling, coin flip, skills competition to decide on a point the Canucks desperately needed.
Eddie Lack shone in the shootout, saving all three shooters, while Zac Dalpe hit the post after beating Lui cleanly, and Niklas Jensen did the same, with his shot getting the "english" off the post to drop in behind the one time Canuck tender. It was the only goal of the six tries, and the winner for the visitors.
Final stats of interest :
- David Booth. He may have missed 3 shots ( and some great chances on those shots ), but he led the game with 10 hits, and was a physical force all game long.
- Henrik Sedin, after going 3 for 6 in the first period, only lost 5 draws the rest of the way, going 16 for 24. He also had 2 assists, was a +2, had 2 shots, and looked like his old self. Led his team's forwards with 23:48 TOI.
- One time Panther Shawn Matthias had a good game, even while being a -1. He had 6 shot attempts ( 4 on net ), 3 hits, and showed his speed and strength on the puck quite often.
- Alexandre Burrows filled up the stat sheet. 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 of 5 shot attempts on net, 1 block, 2 PIM, and 3 hits in 29 shifts and 18:05 TOI. A Mr Everything type of game.
- Chris Higgins played hard too, but his stat line was, while full, a little less positive. No doubting the effort, and he has been the best Canuck for effort over the last several games. Today he was a -1, had 2 of 5 shots hit the net, 4 PIM, 3 hits, and 2nd most for forwards 23:20 TOI.
The Canucks get right back at it tomorrow against the Lightning. They are a better team than their Florida brethren guys, but who knows? Until the math says no, the Canucks will keep trying to catch the Stars.