The Coyotes have created some difficulties for the Canucks in recent games, what with them not being as good, record wise, as in years past. This is still a hard working , defensively conscious team however, and they still have Shane Doan. I doubt it is in his DNA to"tank". So you knew they would work hard.
The lineup from last night saw two changes. The first was Jakob Markstrom getting another start, and the second was Brandon MacMillian in for Ronalds Kenins.
The Canucks came out determined as this one started. Markstrom had to make his first save on a spinning Erat shot about 5 minutes in, but the first period was an avalanche of Canuck shots versus that trickle. In fact, the second shot on Markstrom did not occur until about the 10 minute mark, as Doan tried to jam it from behind the net. There was about 10-11 shots and 2 posts for the Canucks between the two Coyote attempts.
The Canucks finally got rewarded for their domination on a pretty rush. After Burrows went off on a change, Vrbata joined the rush. As he and Daniel Sedin made some space with their passes back and forth, Yannick Weber joined late and took a nice feed from Daniel Sedin as he beat Mike Smith stick side for a well deserved 1-0 lead.
Credit the home team, however. They may be way out of it, but they have some pride, and they started to push back and get a bit of zone time. The shots started coming in dribs and drabs ( by the end of the first, the edge in shots was only 16-10 for the Canucks, after holding their opponent to only a couple in the first half of the period.
They cashed in to tie it up at the 15:34 mark. Oliver Ekmann - Larsson is a good payer. He now has 20 goals in a tire fire of a season for his team. But he was allowed to get three shots on this goal by the Canucks. He found a bit of space in front, but both Bieksa and Sbisa have got to dump him on his butt before that third shot. Markstrom could have had better rebound control, perhaps. But that goal was probably preventable.
A bit of feeling even injected itself in this one. Burrows did not like something that Ekmann - Larsson did, and his discussion was joined by Doan and others, and then Bieksa had to line up on the face off with BJ Crombeen ( the 'Yotes one of the few teams to have an enforcer still ), who tried to start something as the horn blew.
That potential kerfuffle did not carry over, at least not onto Burrows' first shift of the second period. Reider almost gave the home team the lead off the rush, as he wristed one on net that beat the goalie but not the post in the first minute. The game was very wide open all of the sudden. Erat had all day on one rush, but outwaited himself, and a three on one the other way on the same shift led to a Bieksa chance that forced Smith's best save of the game to that point.
The Canucks got a power play off of more pressure, and while the first unit has some great zone time, they were unable to cash it in, and the second unit came even closer, as Burrows hit the post, and Tanev has a wonderful rebound chance off of another Burrows shot that Smith made a great save on. The power play did score in L.A last night, but they could not make that trend continue on their first man advantage.
Matthias tallied the fourth post of the game ( for the Canucks, the Coyotes had one too ) just a little under five minutes into the middle period, as the Canucks were getting a ton of shots for the second straight game ( they led the second period tally 8-1 seven minutes into the period ), but were unable to get more into the net, instead of off it's frame.
The 'Yotes again pushed back a bit ( weaker this time ), and managed to slow down the Canucks offensive push for a while. The Canucks were certainly still pushing the play, they were just not getting as many shots through. A Sedin shift where Daniel hit the puck out of the air on net was one great chance, and a Vey shot another, as the Canucks continued to get shots and chances.
After Edler had a puck bounce over his stick at the blue line, he had to swing at it as Doan went by. He barely touched the Phoenix captain, but evidently the swinging of the stick was enough for the home team's first power play. The penalty kill was the better of the special teams for the first minute, and in fact, although the Coyotes had a little bit of zone time, they never really threatened Markstrom, and ended up with zero shots, after a very solid kill for the Canucks.
The Coyotes recovered their defensive posture in the second period as well. They were rushing forward more, and competing better, as their defense in their own end improved, enabling better break outs. The Canucks were the team under siege in the last minutes of the period, as Markstrom was busier. A late Sedin line rush almost scored on a Burrows backhand, as Smith could not find it. Of course, he was tackled by the defenseman ( OEL just missed a violent two handed cross check to his head ) , drawing blood. But, you know, it is Burrows. The ####### probably had it coming anyhow.
Even with that push from the home team, the Canucks still outshot them 12-6 in the second period, and held a 28-16 edge with a period to play.
The third started out with the same "way more open than a game against these guys usually is" as parts of the previous two periods, with the Coyotes getting the better early pressure. The Canucks had the better early chances, as Vey and Henrik Sedin both forced decent saves.
They were nothing like the rob job Smith had on Bonino though, as he was all alone with a teammate and time. The pass should have pulled the goalie from the open net, but Smith somehow found it for his "best of the night". Horvat had another great rip at the net on a four on two, and it looked like the Canucks were tilting the ice again.
The Coyotes were getting just enough chances and shots to be dangerous, however. Plays like an obvious trip on Hansen at the blue line that was uncalled, and led to a possible two on one, were tightening the chests of the many Canuck fans in attendance at the "Gila River Arena". They may have gotten less frequent with every possible minute, but it was still enough to put one on edge.
Honestly, without Smith playing like he was in consideration for the Olympic team again, this one would have been done long before. His save on Horvat on a two ( that became three ) on one was very good, and it was only one of many.
Linden Vey put in another strong shift along the boards, and his hard work drew a Vitale tripping call with just under five minutes left. The first unit ( with two defensemen instead of four forwards gain ) were unable to get anything going right away, and the second unit, while a bit better, were only able to get an easy shot. The first unit came back with the last 38 seconds, and they finally were able to cash it in. Edler ripped one off the post, and as Smith turned to find it, it went off his back to give Edler another goal, and the Canucks the all important lead, on a power play goal, for the second straight night.
With just under three minutes left, it was finally up to the goaltender. The Canucks had done a solid job of preventing very many good chances throughout this game, but the 'Yotes were going to put on a late push, like any team would. They pulled the goaltender with a minute and a half left, and they actually got a couple shots that Markstrom made good pad saves on.
But most of the last minutes were pretty worry free. The Canucks were solid in their own end, and blocked several shot attempts. It was that hard work that led to the third goal ( another empty netter, that makes, I think, 16 of those to lead the NHL ) , when Henrik Sedin out battled a couple 'Yotes at centre and slid it down the ice with one hand to put the game away.
Numbers To Ponder :
#35 - When you get your first NHL win in a long while, and do a hell of a lot better than your last start, you get the first mention. Jakob Markstrom may have had a couple of big rebounds, but he was solid when he had to be. The Canucks did a great job of protecting their goaltender, but he still had 24 saves on 25 shots.
5 - Ping, ping, ping, ping. After four of them went post and out, the winning goal went post and in. The first goal was post and in as well. Sometimes the difference between in and out is just that little. ( note, posts do not show up at all in the regular stat sheet, and barely in the advanced one...what's up with that ?I've always thought a post is even more than a shot or a miss, it beat the goalie, and technically was "on net" ! ) Credit the Canucks for not getting frustrated.
+15 - Linden Vey may be getting the "fourth line" minutes now with his linemates, but that +15 at 5 on 5 on the Corsi table was pretty impressive ( see here, thanks hockeystats.ca ) for Willie Desjardin's "utility" forward. He really does fit in anywhere, and hunts the puck so well along the boards for his size. He finished with 1 shot, and 4 of 9 on draws in his 11:34 TOI. Being on for 21 shots for 5 on 5, and only 6 against all game, that is pretty good for the young man.
#23 - A lot of guys had a lot of shots in this game. The visitors had 44 of them. But how about Alexander Edler, once again ? 5 shots to lead the team, and the game winning goal. He had a couple blocks and hits in his 21:49 as well.
6 - No, not #6, though that is the one Yannick Weber wears. He was definitely worth mentioning, with a goal and an assist. No, that number is for the team high 6 hits he had tonight. He and Dan Hamhuis have been a pretty solid pairing, and the Swiss Mister keeps impressing more and more every game recently.
So, the Canucks came through. In a game that had almost as much pressure as last night ( they were expected to win this one. Can you imagine if they had lost tonight ? And with Markstrom in net ? !! ), and the Canucks handled it like champs.
You should not lose too many games where you outshoot the opponent 44 - 25. A two to one shot edge usually heralds an edge in play, after all. Credit the team with taking care of business, and getting the job done.
See ya next weekend...