The Senators and Canucks play some interesting games. There always seems to be a physical element injected into the game, and they usually are games where the outcome is in doubt until late. After a game that got away a little bit the night before, the question going into the second half of the back to back was going to be how the Canucks responded. They have not lost both games of a back to back in the five times it has already occurred this season, and that includes the Blues and Avs ( going to elevation on the second game ), the California Two Step ( Eddie Lack beat the Ducks in the second game ) and three times where they played the Oilers on the first half of the grind of two games in two days.
They lost the second half of all those Oiler games, playing the Bolts, Preds, and Ducks , all on home ice. Most the time, those teams are waiting at the Roxy in Vancouver the night before. The Sens actually played in the afternoon yesterday. But they also had a farther journey to Kanata.
Nonetheless, perhaps a slight balancing of the scale. We are still waiting for some kind of justice for the Matthias hit as of this writing, however.. Did I just miss the announcement of the hearing ? On the phone dressing down ? Even some confirmation these guys actually saw that #$@# ? Asking for a friend...
The goaltending question was answered in favor of Eddie Lack ( good choice, that was the way I would have went as well Willie ) , but the real question was "WTF is going on in Ottawa? ". No, not the way that phrase is usually meant, but in regards to the hockey team. Paul MacLean was throwing GM's and players under the bus in recent comments, and with their struggles, the usual Canadian market pressures were starting to wear on the team. You knew they would come out with some oomph as a result.
They would face a goaltender who has been solid of late, stopping all the pucks in his last two appearances. With the back to backs, you never know. But I am sure the team felt good about this one going in. Grinding through the four lines does inspire that kind of confidence.
The Canucks did exactly that on their first shifts, with it taking Smith blocking Edler into Lack to get a chance at the net in response versus the fourth line. Ottawa got on track a little, and then Jensen had the best chance of the early game for the visiting team. Still, all four lines looked decent off the hop.
Ottawa got some great chances early too, but they looked less great because of how calm Eddie Lack looked in the net early. With all the stuff he dealt with in his first year, seeing him just enjoy playing was glorious. ( This turned out as a result he will hate, but the goaltending was not the "problem" in this one. )
The Canucks were rewarded for their hot start in this one . Check this beauty...
Sure the pass by Stanton was wonderful, but watch again and again at how Radim Vrbata VrSnipers that one into the net. The subtle play to get Phillips wrong footed, and then the sublime dance with Anderson that the goaltender lost badly.
The second one to come soon after was a far more meat and potatoes goal, with Henrik Sedin feeding the point, and Bieksa powdering the puck. Chiasson may have got a piece and helped fool the goalie on that one, but it looked pretty fast going in. The Sens had a great power play opportunity to get back into it again, and made it work, almost. They were hammering the puck at the net, and if they weren't blocked, they were saved by Eddie Lack. The Canucks then quickly got back into the " four line grind " that is becoming their hallmark in this now about 33 % done season. Their speed and ability to make plays is just too much for the other team to handle sometimes.
Jensen took a perfectly weighted dump out at the blue line and powered to the net, barely saved. The Sedins, Bonino and Ritchardson lines took their time generating puck possession, shot attempts, and zone time. At it's best, Whiteboard Willie's system gets the other team constantly chasing the play and the puck, while also leaving the team in the position to respond defensively when they don't have it or are getting it back. It always puts your teammates there in puck support. And, damn, it looks fun to play !
Now, you know it is never easy, and while the Canucks came out grinding again, an innocent penalty ( Bieksa was just presenting himself as an option for a pass, and ran into Ryan ) put them under the gun, ( and was a precursor of the special teams horrors that awaited them in the period. ) and gave the home team a perfect chance to get back into the game. Eddie Lack did his thing though, and the penalty kill was once again excellent.
I am quite sure that Derek Dorsett was just answering the "Code" when he gave Neil the opportunity to get his team going with a fight. They were talking over the faceoff, and Double D' let it happen. But, when Neil rabbit punched him while he was on the ice and in the clutches of the linesman, he reacted like George Brett being told he was out when Neil tried to pump the crowd. It was a "narrative" because of the result, the ol' "fight gets them fired up.."...buuuuuttttt...
The fight worked though. A goal came right after. For the Canucks. Burrows got a great forechack on Phillips, and the resulting turnover on the attempted clear went right to one of the visiting team's hotter players, as Brad Richardson went post and in to make it 3 - 0.
You have to think that the crowd must have had a lot of Blue and Green in it tonight, as when the Canucks got given a power play shortly afterwards, the Sens got a chance on it, and Lack made a couple sprawling saves that may have inspired an "Ed-die... Ed-die" chant going at the Kanata rink. Maybe that was just an echo though. That would soon change, however.
The landslide started as another power play got cut short by yet another Bieksa penalty, this one for just finishing his check, when Condra looked to have stumbled on the play. Juice had no chance to let up, and tried to not hit the guy in the head, and got called for hitting the guy in the head ! Tough call. They killed that one. But it just kept coming.
The second one on Vrbata looked like a puck battle they let go all night otherwise,, and the Tanev one right after, despite the "HNIC cheerleaders for the East" telling you otherwise, was just flat out wrong. Defensemen do that all the time without the call. Suddenly, the team was on nothing but PK's, and a second five on three that was a bit smelly resulted in Legwand finally breaking the dam, getting a rebound past Eddie on the two man advantage.
You would have to think they were tired from all that PP time. It had to have an effect on the players ability to keep going. While the PK stopped further power play goals, the momentum led another "own goal" on Weber, as Zibanejed outskated several tired players, swooped around the net after being stopped, and just shoveled it off of the unlucky Weber to make it a one goal game.
So, it was kinda inevitable that the Sens would tie it up. Credit them for the way they made things happen and took advantage of the breaks that they got in the period. Ryan made a nice read on the play to get a rebound over a sprawling Lack, The 22 to 7 shots from all the special teams time did get the Clown Dunce of HNIC Healy to use hockeystats.ca on national TV to show the graph as a result. ( Check that astonishing Corsi graph and the stats here ) Great for our friends. But without any context. He blamed the team for abandoning the goalie instead. Typical !
The Sens were actually unlucky to not take the lead on the first shift or so, as they hit a post off the rush. Hoffman then looked like he had more time than Vrbata on his goal on a two on one where he juked and jived, and still missed the chance in the end. The home team looked energized now, and the visitors under siege.
Perhaps the refs were trying to payback the earlier largesse for the Ottawa team on the Cowen penalty for hitting Burrows. You never know when you will get a crew that are "game managers". The puck was in Burr's skates. I thought that was a little liberal with the interpretation of the rules as well, but it was for my team, so screw it, right ?!
It came to naught anyhow, with the Sens penalty kill rising to the occasion with a strong kill. It helped reset the grind, this time witht he fourth line showing the way.
The Sedin line then scored, but the refs did Anderson a solid, blowing the whistle on a puck still loose as Vrbata was tapping it in. The Sens pressed again, then the Canucks pushed back, as a suddenly exciting game broke out in the third period. Dorsett missed a Horvat set up in close, and Bob Cole got the octaves quivering on a Karlsson chance at the other end, as the back and forth for the extra point against a non conference foe started ten minutes early.
The refs a chance to get involved in a game they seemed eager to affect when Smith stepped on the 19 year old rookie's stick in a puck race late, and it looked like a gamechanger. It also victimized Horvat for not too much, ruining another solid shift for the fourth line in the third that preceded it, killing the momentum they were trying to establish again.. The penalty kill did very well in response to this one though, and Burrows even had a short handed chance on a jam play during the time on it.
The entertaining back and forth of the third period resulted in a few late chances, but it ended at 3 - 3. The extra point would keep the Canucks up top in the West, and assure them of at least a .500 road trip. You had to expect it would be a wide open O/T.
It was, with the Sedins doing their thing, until they gave up a puck late in their shift, and Karllson ended up in the slot with all day to beat Lack on the resulting rush the other way. The HNIC booth rejoiced, ( perfect example ; I thought Cole was going to russle the Canucks hair like a little kid when he proclaimed that the one point "put them ahead of the Hawks...THATS PRETTY GOOD!" . Never change Bob, never change... ) and the Canucks had only the one point to show for this one.
Numbers and Stuff
- Mika Zibanejad : had 2 goals, 2 assists, and an ES Corsi For of +9. Good, but not as good as Bobby Ryan, whose ES CF was +14, to lead his team.
- Keven Bieksa and Lucas Sbisa : Had a combined ES CF of - 30. ( -17 and -13 respectively...ouch ! )
- 4th line and 2nd line : Bo Horvat, Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett were a combined ES / CF of =17 ( +6, +6 and +5 respectively ). Bones, Burr and Abs were - 11, -5, and -9. Sure, tougher competition and more minutes. But a combined -25 at even strength. Damn !
- The Sens did to the Canucks what they did to the Leafs last night. 89 total attempts ( 45 shots, 25 blocked, and 19 misses ) to 47 ( 33 Nuck shots, 4 misses, 11 blocked ). Out Corsied !
- Alexander Edler blocked 6 of those shots.
Oh well, can't win them all. This aint a precursor, is it ? I specifically said no precursors last night ! The boys now have to face the Habs in their first home game since Jean Beliveau's death on Tuesday to end this trip.
That should be interesting...