Well, that was the big question going into this final game of a winless three game road trip. The team was still going well at the start of it, and a late Minny goal meant a point, and a game Dallas team that just outplayed them wavered the confidence of Canuck Nation.
But this was the one everyone was looking to. Sure, the Hawks are in the ascendant position right now. They also had the added advantage of waiting for a tired Canuck team that got in late last night as well.
Did that being tired make a difference? I don't know, I call that an excuse, and we know how Torts feels about those. Whatever the reason, the Hawks took it to the Canucks with a vengeance in the first period, and that was reflected in the 10-3 shot count ( 18-8 in credited shot attempts, those that missed or were blocked )
There can be no doubt that the Hawks were putting on a show at home. But give the Canucks credit too. It took a Versteeg tip on a Kane shot to beat Eddie Lack, who was playing very well. The home team had more chances than that, and a helluva lot of zone time to play with, but the Canuck defenders deserve credit.
It's hard to keep a team that talented off the scoresheet though, and it would take a Kane shot and a slight Versteeg tip to beat our Swedish Delight in net. That goal may have made the guys sag in the past, and it is not like they surged back right afterwards, but there was some resolve. A last five minutes penalty on Yannick Weber for holding on a play where Eddie made another big save could have been a nail in the coffin as well, but the #1 penalty kill did it's thing just fine, thank you very much.
A play at the blue line, where Bollig got a bit too rambunctious in his checking of a guy without the puck, and the Canucks had a late power play chance of their own.
Through the last 30 seconds of the period, however, and the opening of the second, it was the Hawks' 28th overall penalty kill that displayed good sticks and sense on the ice. You got the feeling in this game that every play meant something.
It certainly felt like an "OH NOESSS" moment a few minutes later though, when Patrick Kane held the puck like he does, and, while it looked like the play was countered well, he made a nice pass off to the side for the shot, and was right in the perfect spot for the rebound, beating Bieksa and his partner trying to block it. That 2-0 goal might have made the fans back home waver, but to the visiting teams' credit, it did not bring them down.
They kept coming, and were rewarded with a bit of puck luck of their own, sort of. The shot by Zack Kassian was hard, and the attempt to use Seabrook as a screen was a smart one. But the puck knicked off of Seabrook, and surprised the Finn in net for the Hawks to make it 2-1.
It looked like the Hawks had withstood the change in momentum in the second period ( a 10-3 edge in shots for the Hawks in the 1st became a 14-7 edge for the Canucks in the second ) . Both teams had a power play after that goal ( both teams went 4 for 4 on the PK tonight ), and both teams had some solid play from everyone on the ice.
It was that kind of game. Every shift seemed to bring the best from each player. The coaches seemed to want to play the matchup game as well ( normally not a thing Torts does ), with Torts trying to get the Kes line out on the Toews line, and both guys trying to get their "other" line ( Kane line or Sedin line ) out against what they thought was the better matchup. I don't know how well that really worked for either team, as it seemed like, for instance, the 4th line for the Canucks was playing hard against whomever they were out against, and the 4th line of the Hawks was a "no problem" instance for Q' when they were out versus the Sedins.
Credit the Twins line for pulling the Canuck fat out of the fire tonight. With a strong, hardworking shift, they got an open shot for Kevin Bieksa at his off point, and his play there was sublime. What looked like a shot was really a pass, and Daniel Sedin did some Solo Sedinery, taking it off balance at the right side of the net, kicking it up to his stick, and roofing it over the sprawling goaltender while on his way down to the ice. It was a hard working goal with skill as well, and much needed.
A tripping call late on Kesler gave the Hawks a power play that looked like a "dagger", but the Canuck penalty kill batted it aside, and away to O/T we went. Both teams had chances to end it, and both teams had their defenders collapsing to the net that denied other chances for the run of play winner, and away to the tiddleywinks competition we went.
I am not going to describe all the saves Eddie lack made in an eight shooter skills competition, but when you stone Kane like it was seriously, no big deal, and have Toews shaking his head after his attempt. Mike Santorelli scored as the first shooter for the Canucks, and Sharp got a lucky one off of Steady Eddie to tie it as the 3rd shooter, but it was not until the 8th guy that Ryan Kesler had the chance to, and did, end it. When you give your team five + chances to win in the tiddleywinks competition, that is awesome.
Other guys that were awesome... ?
Well, there was, first and foremost, the birthday boy, Christopher Tanev. In his 23:45 TOI, against mainly top competition, he was credited with a shot and 3 blocks. But the stats guy is probably the last guy to quote when you talk about this guy's game. He was awesome. Time and again, a rush was thwarted, a shot blocked, a stick magically appeared to save the day. Tanev handled it all with the cool aplomb that has become his trademark. The Hawks even tried to run him. The first time. Brandon Bollig made a rather large run and made a rather loud sound on a first period hit that was more sound than fury. It bothered "Gumby" none. As the TSN guys talked about it for a while, Tanev just shrugged and completed the play. Later, in the 3rd, Bollig did get him with a huge hit. But his smile was quickly tempered by Tanev jumping right back up and sweeping the puck away from him. ;-)
The others? Well, Daniel Sedin had 7 of his 8 shots hit the net, was a +1 with the goal, AND had a hit in his 24:35 TOI. Henrik Sedin had an assist on that goal, also was a +1, and in his 24:21 TOI, only managed 1 missed shot. But he had 2 blocks and 1 hit. Both Twins played hard tonight.
Kevin Bieksa - victimized on both Hawk goals, he was smart on the tying marker, had an assist, a block, and 4 hits. Jannik Hansen led his team with 6 hits. Zack Kassian only played 10:02, but had a goal, 3 hits, and looked to have some jump most every shift. Yannick Weber was pretty good. There were others, of course. The Kesler line was a force. In addition to 2 minors, Kesler also had 3 shots, and 3 hits, and won 7 of 17 draws. It was that kind of team game.
So, with a strong work ethic, against a team everyone says is the best, the Canucks took their very best on their home ice and won. Sure, it was in the skills competition, but the game has to end somehow in the regular season. This was a satisfying win though. After a first period where they looked to be down and out, the Canucks showed a ton of character.
Well done guys. Welcome home on Sunday versus the Jets.
Time to get another winning streak going !