As John Shorthouse said at the end of Monday's broadcast, there are some things in sports you just cannot explain. Vancouver's dominance of the St. Louis Blues is one of those things. The Canucks improved to 9-0-2 in their last 11 games against the Blues in a 4-1 win, kicking off their four-game road trip on the right foot.
Just 31 seconds after Zbynek Mihalek tied the game for the Blues in the second period, Nick Bonino scored the go-ahead goal that proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Radim Vrbata provided a key goal in the third period to give the Canucks a two-goal cushion, while Shawn Matthias opened the scoring for Vancouver in the second period. Alex Burrows provided the Canucks with their 21st empty net goal of the year to ice the win.
Vrbata notched his 16th multi-point game of the night and now has 12 points in his last eight games since being taken off the Sedin line. His offense once again proved to be clutch for the Canucks in a game that, while it wasn't "do or die" was still obviously crucial in the standings as Vancouver fights to hold onto their playoff spot.
Eddie Lack turned in another big performance, stopping 23 shots on the night to improve to 15-11-4 on the year, helping secure two important points for the Canucks.
Lack had to be sharp early when the Blues had a few good scoring chances on net in the opening few minutes of the game. For the 10th straight game, St. Louis was held scoreless in the first period.
After the Blues evened things up in the second period, the Canucks struck right back just 31 seconds later when Nick Bonino scored his 15th goal of the year. Kevin Bieksa blasted the puck in from the point, banking it perfectly off the boards to Bonino, who had a wide open net as Brian Elliot couldn't adjust quick enough.
Thirty-one seconds later... https://t.co/Obb2pDgA0c— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) March 31, 2015
With the Canucks leading 2-1 third period, Radim Vrbata gave the Canucks a two-goal cushion as he sniped in a shot through the legs of Elliot, putting the Canucks up 3-1 at 7:06 with his 31st goal of the season, which ranks 10th in the NHL.
The Canucks had a pair of breakaway chances early, but Brian Elliot was able to turn them both away. Midway through the opening period, Linden Vey slipped a pass to Derek Dorsett, who had slipped behind the Blues defense for a breakaway opportunity. Elliot stood his ground and stopped Dorsett to keep the game scoreless.
A breakaway!!! How exciting! …and it’s Dorsett. Never mind.— Daniels Wagners (@ADanielWagner) March 31, 2015
Then, with the Canucks shorthanded early in the second period, Jannik Hansen found himself on a breakaway. Once again, Elliot wasn't phased and turned the shot away to keep the game scoreless.
Elliot looked strong early, but the Canucks were eventually able to figure him out as the night went on. Elliot finished the night with 18 saves on 21 shots faced, dropping his fourth straight game.
After coming up short on their first two breakaway attempts, the Canucks finally struck on their third when Shawn Matthias scored his 18th goal of the year at 3:54 of the second period. Vancouver took advantage of a poor change by the Blues with Chris Tanev hitting Matthias with a long pass up ice.
Not sold on St. Louis’s gameplan, which I assume is to give the Canucks as many breakaways as they want.— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) March 31, 2015
Dorsett, nope. Hansen, nadda. Matthias - BACK OF THE NET! https://t.co/1BvIf8HkLe— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) March 31, 2015
St. Louis tied things up after a slow start to the second period, during which they registered just one shot on net. Zbynek Michalek played a bank pass off the boards and beat Lack with a slap shot from the point at 12:44.
Vancouver's next stop on their final road trip of the season is Nashville on Tuesday night. It'll be the last time this year Vancouver will have to play back-to-back games. 3-6-2 this year on the back end of consecutive games. The Predators have had Vancouver's number this year, outscoring the Canucks 8-1 in their two contests this season.
After facing a relatively light offensive effort from the Blues tonight, don't be surprised if Willie Desjardins turns to Eddie Lack again. This is the last back-to-back set of games this season, and I don't think throwing Jacob Markstrom into the fire is the answer for this game when every point is so critical.