Eddie Lack got the start in this one, and no one could argue with that decision He was a .924 save % in his last 3 games, and deserved to get the net for this one.
Unfortunately, he was only really good for 58 of the 60 minutes. This game was not totally on him, of course. It is a team game, and the power play had several chances for the Canucks to get something out of this one. The Canucks played hard, and maybe deserved a better fate. But, even with their fortunes lagging this year, the New Jersey Devils are not a team you want to try to come back against.
The game started out well for the home team, as they played their smothering style, and held the Canucks to only two shots in the first period. How do they do it ? The Devils have perfected the trap, and they make no bones about it. Uncle Lou likes his teams to have a stud goaltender and a strong defensive presence.
What they do so well, when they are on, is turn over pucks in the neutral zone, and turn the puck the other way. Did they have a less than 100 % opponent tonight ? Well, that was a draining and emotional win in New York the night before, but they seemed to be skating and competing hard. Maybe they could have been harder on the puck in the offensive zone, and their defending was not as good as it has been in the past. But, apart from maybe at the end, I do not think the scheduling was a factor in the result.
The Canucks were definitely running around on the first goal for the home team, as Patrick Elias shot from the right face off circle and beat Eddie Lack on the short side high. He is their most talented scorer, and it was a shot with a screen, so Lack never saw it. But they got the chance off of the Canucks not being set on a play where everyone was back.
Jordin Tootoo ( who had a great game for the Devils, finishing with a goal and 5 shots on 6 attempts, both of which led his team ) started the second period off with just a killer goal. He was in on a two on one, and was looking shot all the way, but Eddie Lack simply should have had it. The shot along the ice beat him as he left just a little too much room on the far side. You could see the young man sag after he let that one in. Just :50 sec into the middle period, it was suddenly 2-0 against a team that will just grind when they get a lead.
The penalty that came soon after for the Canucks was a questionable one, but then Chris Rooney is the same guy that gave Henrik that ridiculous unsportsmanlike penalty against the Sharks, so take it for what it is worth. It was a call that can be called all game on any NHL team, however. I guess they REALLY don't want the sticks horizontal.
Of course, the Devils cashed it in. Mike Cammalieri is a proven NHL scorer, and he made no mistake on his one timer that beat Lack. 3-0. Game over, right ?
Well, not quite. Willie Desjardins decided to put out Zack Kassian with the Sedin Twins. They were already without the Poutine to their Meatballs ( Burrows was a late scratch after taking the warmup and not feeling right. Great, another injury... ), and were looking only OK with Vrbata back riding shotgun.
It did not take long for the line to produce. On their first shift, a pretty Daniel Sedin pass found The Big Guy down low, and he deftly tipped the puck past Schneider after his initial shot was saved to make it a 3-1 game. The Canucks came hard after that. They even had a power play right after the goal, as Kassian drew a high sticking call on Elias by being hard on the body.
It created some pressure, and they got a couple shots on it, but credit the Devils with keeping things to the outside pretty well. They were also getting too many odd man rushes ( not just in the second either ). Now that is going to happen when you are pressing to get back into a game. But it was still troubling. Credit Eddie Lack with rebounding. He battled hard through the rest of this game to give his team a chance in the face of all that. He will have some doubts when he self analyzes this one, sure. But he can also be proud of the way he battled and came back from his foibles to keep his team in it.
Down two with only twenty to go, it was more of the same in the third. The Canucks came out strong. Now it was the one time Canuck #1 tender who had his moments. His best early was a good save on a Weber bomb early in the frame. ( he also made the big saves when he had to tonight. Ginger Ninja did just enough in this one to get the win )
Just 3:04 in, the Canucks got the goal they needed.
Watch how this puck never lays flat. Daniel Sedin feathered the bouncing puck through to his brother, who is covered, but who still makes a slight touch to give Zack the chance to put it in. Once again, Schneider got a piece. But not enough, and it was 3-2.
That scoreline almost changed right back to a two goal deficit on the next shift, as the Devils had a great "shift after a goal". Zidlicky hit the post instead of the net to keep it a one goal game. It was not too long after that when, Bo and Co had a great shift, with pressure and chances. it was followed up by the next line, and that was going well until Derek Dorsett took down Peter Harrold 200 ' from his own net. There was nothing to bitch about with this call, except for saying "what the hell" to #51.
The PK was pretty strong. Apart from a smart Tootoo shot, and a Zidlicky chance at the death of the penalty, the Canucks and Lack stood up well. They were not able to get their momentum back after killing this penalty off. Sometimes that happens in our sport. Momentum is huge. Garrett was bang on to point out how they lost "Big Mo' after Dorsett's bad penalty.
New Jersey settled into the grind after that. The Canucks still had a great chance to tie it up though. After the Sedin line had some tremendous pressure, Marek Zidlicky decided to stop a chance by closing his hand on the puck and throwing it into the corner. It is, of course, a penalty, but once again, Mr Rooney et al probably got this one wrong. The replay showed he had the puck in his glove while he was in the crease. That, my friends, is a penalty shot.
They went hard at it on the power play, and after Merrill broke his stick, Willie decided, with about 4 minutes left, to increase the advantage by pulling the goalie as well. ( I liked the aggressive coaching. He did it with the four forward set up he has taken to using when he wants to get a goal late ) They were just unable to get the puck over the line. Though they managed to not get scored upon without the goalie in at that time, after pulling him again later, Cammalieri was able to get the free goal to salt it away.
47.4 - That was the percentage of the best face off man for the Canucks, Bo Horvat. He won 9 of 19, while #1 centre Henrik Sedin was 7 of 16. The Devils won the face off battle 32-23. It was a big reason the Canucks were unable to get something out of this one. They were chasing the puck after losing draws. At both ends.
18 - Total hits. 11 - 7 for the Canucks. Not a "slugfest", to say the least.
65 % - That is the 5 on 5 Corsi for Dan Hamhuis, the best on the blue line. His partner Weber was 64%. The best line in the advanced stats column ? Well, Henrik was at 68 %, Daniel was 67%, and Kassian was 65%. Perhaps they should stay together on Sunday ?
10-9 - Some love for Eddie Lack. The Canucks only outshot the Devils by one shot in the third. Of those 9 shots, there were some pretty decent chances off the rush for the home team. In the second, and third, he did his thing very well. Too bad about that early second period...
-2 - Dan Hamhuis was also a -2 in this one. The eternal conflict between the advanced number above, and this standard number continues.
So, the Canucks now face a team that will give them all they can handle on Sunday. The Islanders are for real this year. I'll be back to break it all down. Let's hope the Canucks get a better result ( and some rest, maybe that third period, where they could not get the momentum back after the PK, was where we saw the fatigue ) for their toils Sunday afternoon.