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A "Giftwrapped" Game Recap ( 3-1 L )

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The Canucks had one of those scheduling games that make bettors quiver. It becomes hard to predict winners and losers when you have to predict who is the most tired as well...when the professional sports leagues try to get every ounce of usage out of their buildings, these things happen. Just step on up and earn that money boys. Or, do your best. Whatever...

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, it was the Nashville Predators, who were early leaders in the Central, and right in the thick of things there in the division everyone forgets about in the West.  The Pacific is indeed a beast, but the Central is pretty tough as well.  After beating the doormats of the Pacific last night, a decidedly bigger challenge awaited the Canucks at home.

With some changes to bring more offense, this is not your father's Predators team.  This game is no longer the "chess match" it used to be.  Hell, it could even be an entertaining game when the Preds come to town now !

Eins

The Canucks came out flying in this one, earning a power play on James Neal's interference call early on.  They had a couple good chances, and almost gave the Preds a chance on the PK as well.  The visitors were able to kill that off, but the die was cast.

The back and forth in the opening period did not feature a lot of set up zone time in the opening period.  The play was back and forth, with the chances off the rush, with more of them in the Canucks' favour.  Rinne was the busier of the two goaltenders early, facing 3 shots from Kassian alone in the first ten minutes.  The "third" line was flying early in this one.  Weber tried to run Daniel Sedin and missed, and Sbisa did not on Beck, causing Weber to get grumpy at that efficiency, and start a fight with Lucas.

That gave the Canucks the power play, and after looking pretty, an Edler point shot hit the post and then Rinne, who was screened well by the younger Sedin.  The Canucks were full value for the initial goal of the game, and the power play looked very good scoring that first goal as well.

Matthias was a good host, and gave the visitors their own power play with an ill advised hook at centre ice. The PK did pretty good, even after Kevin Bieksa had a scary encounter with Smith's shoulder pad cap, right near the eye ( it was also reported it could have been the puck coming up...all we know is it was near the eye. Hope Juice is OK ).  Eddie Lack was there when needed, and the penalty killers made sure what should be a good power play continued at their current 25th in the NHL rank.

The back and forth continued, with an odd man rush leading to another the other way, as was the case with a solid two on one that Higgins was ROBBED on by Pekka Rinne, who just got the leg on the "Forsberg" move by Higgy.

The Canucks, now short Kevin Bieksa, had Matthias limp from one hit, a high hit on him draw another one, and Dorsett struggled off after some friendly fire on a forecheck as well.  The power play off of the Matthias play resulted in more pressure, but not another goal, and the Canucks would have thirty seconds on the man advantage to start the second period.

- It was a very entertaining period, as evidenced by the 14-11 shots edge for the home team.

- The Preds had a 14-12 edge on draws after one, powered by Derek Roy going 5 of 7.

Zwei

The Canucks did not have Kevin Bieksa on the bench to start the second ( let us hope the injury, up around the eye, is not serious ), and while it looked decent again, the power play to start the period was not successful.  Being great hosts, the Canucks decided to screw up a line change, and give the visitors a power play of their own early in the period.

The penalty kill did not look as good as their first one, and was a bit unlucky, as a shot that was going wide by Filip Forsberg was knocked in off the "friendly bounce" by Dan Hamhuis.  It was a goal that Eddie Lack had zero chance on, to make it 1-1.

( The refs in the NHL, obviously, still do not know what goaltender interference is, after all this time, as Ribeiro simply mugged Eddie Lack on a chance soon afterwards.  Not all contact with the defensive player means that it is OK to mug the goalie guys ! I mean caman,,,Eddie made the save, but call it when the damn guy is in the crease AND on the goalie ! #yeesh )

The parade to the trainer's room continued, as Tom Sestito strained something ( both he and Bieksa would be done for the night with their ailments ).  On a shift with Vrbata taking his spot, the refs decided to screw it up again, and gave Dorsett a penalty for being crosschecked by Josi.  It was a pitiful call, and resulted in a totally undeserved power play, as the refs' bad night continued.

The Canucks killed this one off, and the back and forth nature of this one continued unabated.  Both teams had tightened up defensively, as this period was less "wide open" as the first one.  The Canucks only had one shot through the first 10 minutes or so ( to 6 for the other guys ) of the second, although they did have zone time, and attempted more that never made it to the net.

The shots total ( now 10-1 ), was a bit misleading, as the Preds had a 10-1 edge.  They were the better team in the period, but maybe the best chance of the stanza was a Derek Dorsett chance with a couple minutes left, on the home team's second shot.  Nonetheless, there was a far more even period as far as the back and forth of the game was concerned than the shot clock would indicate.

In fact, with a late Sedin shift, and a Higgins knockdown of the puck resulting in a Sbisa bomb, it was the Canucks that had the better chances late in this period.

- While it might have beena  bit misleading, there is no denying that the Preds had the better period, tying the score, and outshooting the home team 11-3.

- Face offs were now 23 -22 for the visitors as well, with Henrik Sedin leading the way for the Canucks, winning 8 of 14 through two periods.

- The replay mavens showed what they called "head shots". Between periods.  Let's get something straight.  The Sbisa hit that started the fight with Weber was not a head shot.  The hittee was far too low on that one.  The head just got some contact. He had the puck too.  Nothing there. Now, the one on Matthias, engaged with someone else, by Mike Ribeiro, is exactly why he has such a bad rep. It was a weasel hit by a weaselly player, and perhaps worthy of at least a chat...  He targeted the head.  Nothing will come of it, probably,, and not every hit is a suspension.  The difference there was the intent, and the physics of the hit.  In both cases though, it is a fast game, and #$@! happens...

Drei

Daniel Sedin got a good chance right off the hop, but just missed, as the third period opened. Then Sbisa had two turnovers result in shots, before a Matthias hit ended the pressure.

The fourth line went the other way, but the chance went wanting, as the net was knocked off.  Both teams seemed to be pushing the play, and while the Preds were the fresher team, it did not seem to affect the pace early in the final twenty minutes.

A Tanev bomb, as the trailer, and a Daniel Sedin chance on the rebound tested Rinne, and on the next shift, the resurgent third line almost beat the goaltender on about 3 shots, with a very dominant shift.

Olli Jokinen then did the stupid "hand on the puck" thing in his own zone, and by all rights, should have been in the box.  But the refs seemed to be making it up as they went along, and denied the Canucks a power play by ignoring the rule as written.

A rush a bit later by Neal resulted in a puck loose in front, and Forseberg suddenly had a goal to give the visitors the lead, when they should have still been killing a penalty.  So, suddenly, the shoddy reffing had real consequences.  The Preds deserved the goal, because they scored it, but they should not have been in that position.  It was yet another example of the NHL having some refs better than others  While I am not blaming the refs for the goal, I am for the chance.  It was a joke.  There is no "judgement call" in that rule. It is black and white, and it is a mystery why the Predators were not on the PK.

The Canucks were on a change, and there should have been better coverage on the goal.  But when the refs just ignore a rule as written, and not enforce it, it is hard to not be pissed off at that result.

Hansen then took a stupid high sticking penalty, and his team would have to kill off two minutes.  They did so, with Lack making a save on Forsberg down low.  The Predators were now in the "dump it out, send one guy" mode of killing the game off now, as they had their lead, courtesy of a break from the zebras.

The Canucks pressed the play hard after the kill, and every line had a chance, as they pressed for the equalizer.

In fact, thet pressed very hard, and probably deserved a better fate.  But while the second goal was a gift from the refs, the third was just a gift.  The Canucks turned it over in their own end, and Colin Wilson jumped on a loose puck, and roofed a rolling puck high.

So, the Predators got the gift of the scheduling, the unintended gift of the line up being thinned that took away from the Canuck four line game , and then the actual gift of the second goal that they probably should not have had.

Eddie Lack could have done better in this one ( the second and third goals were a bit weak, although both were good shots on him ), but the Canucks are now 0 for 3 on back to backs, and now are 8 and 4 on the season.

The refs are not the reason the Canucks lost.  They just helped matters immensely by ignoring the rules of the game as written !? You may be a better team this year, and you earned the two points tonight...but...just take your gift and go Nashville.

Don't forget to sign the guest book on the way out...