The Hurricanes have played better since they got both Staals playing together, but they are already out of the playoff race in the East. Still, there is talent on this team, and they are not to be taken lightly.
The home team certainly got off to a good start in this one. They had about five shots, including a Riley Nash chance all alone that Ryan Miller handled just fine, before the Canucks got their first shot, from Derek Dorsett. They were the team carrying the play early, that is for sure.
The Canucks had a second "shutdown pair" available for this one, as Dan Hamhuis started his first game since his groin injury. He was paired with Frank Corrado.
The teams both hit the post in the first half of the initial period, with Vrbata getting a great chance to open the scoring on a nice lone rush off of a defensive turnover at the blue line. The Canucks were guilty of more of those kind of turnovers early
A lot of the Canes carrying the play was because they were winning tons of draws, having won 11 of 17 draws in the first fifteen minutes. That, and a weakness for icing the puck are not a good combination.
The visitors did a good job of withstanding the early edge in play, and even another too many men call was not enough for the Canes to get the momentum back, as the third ranked penalty kill did it's job just fine. That is another place where Hammer was missed, and with him playing with Bieksa on the kill, it, again, gave the Canucks two pairs the coach could count on.
Eric Staal got a decent chance at the buzzer, but the Canucks, after the initial surge by the home team, did a decent job of getting back on an even keel.
The second started in a similar fashion, but the breakouts for the Canucks were better. As a result, the chances started to come. First, a Matthias chance on a loose puck that Ward covered. They were better defensively too, as evidenced by a nice Edler play after Eric Staal got by him on a pinch, checking him on the backcheck, just as the two on one was developing.
How about that save by Ryan Miller on Nestrasil on a two on one when they did get a chance ? A two pad stack that looked like something I first saw when I was eight years old. Amazing. It was not quite Kirk MacLean in '94, but it was pretty damn timely.
The Canes had a two to one shots edge ( 14 - 7 ) when they had one of those plays that probably makes where they are in the standings a little ess surprising, for all that talent. A turnover at the blue line ( it is the first goal in the highlights below )
...gave Derek Dorsett a clean chance and time to think about it. He made no mistake, beating Cam Ward high glove for his first in thirteen games on a very good shot. That settled the game down, and even Frankie Corrado taking a puck right in the mush ( he got a cut on his nose, went for repairs, and missed a couple shifts. ) could not quell the momentum, and after Liles took a penalty high sticking Hansen there was a chance to get the second one. Instead, a power play that was barely dangerous for the first unit, and disastrous for the second unit ( sorry Dorsett, but that turnover wasn't good ).
\It ended with Riley Nash having an empty net, as Miller went for a nicely placed dump out that the second unit handled like a grenade, and did nothing but leave an empty net.
So, of course, the Puck Gods and their perverse sense of fun, and gave Justin Falk another chance to have a horrible night get worse with another turnover at the blue line. Shawn Matthias said thank you and beat Ward with a deke to make it 2-0. It should have been 1-1, but for Nash's miss. Of you Puck Gods rapscallions and your idea of fun !
The aggressive nature of the Whiteboard Willie system paid more dividends late in the period, as Ryan Stanton had a great chance coming off the bench and joining the rush, before making an outstanding breakaway pass on the reset to Alexandre Burrows.
Everyone's favorite player ( I do not know this for a fact, but I sure do see a lot of kids wearing #14 around the town and the arena when I get down there. The kids love him, anyway ! ) powdered the puck, and Liles did not help with the stick in there, getting a piece to make it a crappy night for the Caroline goaltender. The Canucks actually led the shots in the second ( 9-8 ), and it was in that period where they put this one away.
The third period definitely had a chance for the home team to get back in it, as the Canucks gave the Canes two power plays in the first seven and a half minutes. The penalty kill stayed perfect on the night, and after that, it was a matter of grinding the game into oblivion. Ryan Miller had to work a bit, ( the Canes had 3 shots and 2 misses on the first one, by far the best. They only had one on the Vrbata tripping PK ), but the only shot from in close was from Tlusty.
They actually had a chance to make it 4-0 on a late power play, and the first unit looked very nice. A Bieksa turnover did not help on the second unit time, but they also actually spent a modicum of time in the offensive zone. Baby steps...
The Canucks deserved this win, even with the obvious shot disparity ( a 12-4 deficit in the first, and an 8-4 deficit in the third contributing to a 28-17 edge for the home team. The shots were actually 56-30 on the night. The Canes had a 14-11 edge in the missed shot tally ( Burrows and Daniel Sedin missed 3 each ) , and The Canucks led the blocks 14-12 ( Corrado, Hamhuis, Horvat and Tanev had 2 each ).
But since we hit on the shots, misses, and blocks, I will leave it to you to see who was better than the other on the night, if you so desire. This was a game that the team played four lines and ground the hell out of it at times, and handled their own end pretty decently when they had to. It was a game they could have lost.
They did not because the 6 million dollar tender at one end was way way better than the 6 million plus guy at the other end. This is a team game. I always say that. But even though one guy had a defense that screwed him, and the other had a defense that played very well, sometimes it is all about the guy between the pipes.
Because this one is all about the goaltender. It is probably not a coincidence that Ryan Miller got a second straight shutout on the night Dan Hamhuis returned to the line up. He had a great night for a first game coming off an injury. In 19:48 TOI, he was a +1, with 2 shots, 2 blocks, and 2 hits.
Ryan Miller set a team record tonight. The Canucks have never had back to back shutouts on the road. Ever. ( not quite "ever". Not since Ken Lockett in 1975. glove tap to Nathaniel for the tweet below in the comments... ) Make no mistake, this was Ryan Miller's night. Good to see him back and feeling better. ( a mini rant : Hey Doug MacLean. Ragging on Miller for not playing when Lack got the start in a loss was idiotic and more than a bit mean. Screw you. People get sick when everyone around them has the flu. Asshole. )
Next up is a couple days off, as the boys will get to spend two days in Florida, before meeting the Panthers. You almost wish they were playing sooner. A third game where they should have the points based on the record. The Panthers are the stiffer test, as evidenced by their recent win on our ice. Perhaps the Canucks can take this four line game that was too much for the two East bottom feeders and get some payback at the rink in Sunshine Florida.