On Saturday night, the Canucks scored not once, but twice. And they won, too. No, it wasn’t a dream. Despite only getting 14 shots on goal, Vancouver scored just enough to let Eddie Lack and the defense do the rest. 23 saves, 32 blocked shots, only one goal let by, and trust me, it was the definition of a fluke goal.
The first period was filled with blocked shots from both sides as the Canucks and Flames combined for a total of five shots in the first period. The most exciting moment of the period was when Kevin Bieksa dropped Mark Giordano in all of about three seconds. For what it’s worth, this was Giordano’s first fight in over two years. (You can watch the fight here)
The Flames blocked 17 shots while Vancouver blocked 10 as the teams did most of the hard work for the goaltenders.
Each team had a power play. Vancouver’s came just 22 seconds into the game when Chris Butler was called for holding. Calgary’s advantage came at 5:54 when Alex Edler was sent off for tripping. Neither team would score any power play goals on the night. Not surprising considering they are two of the worst in the league on the power play, both with an abysmal 13.9 power play percentage.
Nicklas Jensen, making his season debut after being called up from Utica, had a perfect opportunity for his first NHL goal late in the first period. A deflected shot created an opportunity for the former first round pick as a deflected shot fooled --, who wasn’t prepared to defend Jensen’s shot. Fortunately for the Flames, Jensen shot wide as the game remained scoreless. “Wide” might be a bit of an understatement here, but he’s new, we’ll take it with a grain of salt.
Calagry would open the scoring just two minutes into the second period. Skating along the boards, Brian McGrattan blasted a slap shot on net from the red line, somehow getting it to beat Lack to give the Flames the 1-0 lead. The goal was McGrattan’s eighth career goal in eight seasons.
Moments later, the Canucks answered back with a goal from Darren Archibald off a scrum in front of the net. Archibald picked up the loose puck behind the net after Knight over skated and missed the puck, allowing Archibald to gain possession and jam away at the puck until it went in for his first career NHL goal.
Get the puck to the front of the net and good things happen.
Despite just managing just eight shots in forty minutes, the Canucks had scored a goal, and it seemed to take a huge weight off their shoulders.
The third period got off to a blistering start. For the Canucks, Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler both had good chances on net, but rookie goaltender Joni Ortio came up with huge stops to keep the game tied.
On the other end, the Canucks escaped disaster when Lance Bouma had an empty net off an odd-man rush. Somehow, someway, the puck deflected off the post. Had the puck gone in, it might have been too deflating for the Canucks to bounce back from after a tough defensive effort.
Finally, Yannick Weber gave the Canucks a lead. The play all started with a great effort from David Booth at the blue line to intercept a pass, knocking it down to keep it in the zone. The new guy in town, Shawn Matthias drove into the net to create a rebound chance. Weber charged from behind to tip in the rebound and provide Vancouver with the go-ahead goal five minutes into the third period.
As the game went on, Chris Higgins wasn’t making things easy on his team, taking three straight penalties in the span of less than seven minutes. The final one, coming with just over two minutes left, allowed the Flames to pull Ortio out of the net to give them a 6-on-4 power play. The Canucks’ defense stepped up to the challenge and ran out the clock to snap a nightmarish skid. The win was Vancouver's second in their last 13 games. Over the course of the night, the Canucks killed off each of Calgary’s five power plays. That part of their game hasn’t been as much of a surprise as Vancouver ranks fifth in the NHL, killing 84.5 percent of opponent’s power plays.
The win was like one giant sigh of relief. Before the game, it seemed as if Chevy Chase from Christmas Vacation was yelling at this team in one of his classic freak-outs.
“Worse? How could things get any worse? Take a look around you, we’re at the threshold of Hell!”
Luckily, the Canucks surprised us all with a much-needed win that has them four points behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Next up for Vancouver is the New York Islanders. In their only previous meeting of the season, the Canucks came out on top with a 5-4 win in overtime.