There was certainly a ton of emotion in this one, with playoff intensity, face washes, name calling and number taking definitely the order of the day for this one. You expect nothing less at this time of year, right ?
It seemed that the Canucks would once again have their troubles against this team. After a "hip push" by Hansen put Dillion into the boards, the Sharks responded with the goonery, as John Scott got away with punching Dorsett while he was involved with another player. It was unneeded anyway, as Dillion was fine, and he stood up for himself just fine with Hansen ( who surprised me in the fight, as he probably won it against a bigger opponent ). The die was cast early on, that this one would be physical.
Of course, that was after he cross checked Dorsett in the arms of another player already, to draw the penalty. The Sharks killed off the first power play fairly easily though, and even avoided another when Lack was hit on a dump in handle shorthanded. He looked to flex the knee and was pretty surprised at the amount of contact that was allowed on that play without a call.
They then took advantage of Lack the next time he handled the puck. The clear up the boards was stopped by Thornton, who passed it to Vlasic. His shot was stopped, but Lack could do nothing about Karlsson all alone with the rebound, and for the 17th time in the last 21 games, the Canucks gave up the first goal.
The Canucks got another power play after a Hertl high stick on Burrows, and this one was dangerous on the first and second units, but still could not cash in. The Sharks then got their first power play, on quite a dramatic dive by Joe Pavelski. Simply put, defensemen have cleared the net like that since this game first was played on ice. The cross check was not any more intense than any other defenseman at the other end all of the game. But the refs were fooled when Little Joe flew a full five feet in the air after the contact. He has learnt from Big Joe well, obviously.
To rub some salt in the wounds, it was Thornton who cashed on another rebound to make it 2-0. Credit him for being in the right place. His line ( with Pavelski and Karlsson, was the best for the Sharks on the night)
Normally, this is where the "woe is me" would set in, ( well, for the fans, the team has shown no quit when down all season ) especially for a team that has had to battle time and again. The Canucks pursued this game with the same intensity they started it with, in the face of that early adversity, and were soon rewarded in the last minute, when, after all four lines had a strong shift to force the play, Radim Vrbata took a Bonino pass and went to the net. he fooled Niemi in close, going behind the net before putting it off the leg and in short side to make it 2-1, and put his team right back in this one. It was a skilled play, and a great goal. ( see it and other highlights of the night below )
The second period was certainly eventful. Whether it was Patrick Marleau missing a wide open net on a 2 on 1, literally putting it through the crease instead of into the net from two feet, or the linesman ( Mike Cvik ) forgetting he was a linesman and trying to become a ref ( yes, Henrik Sedin fell on the puck with his hand in the faceoff. He did not bat the puck in any way though, and Pavelski's stick was in there too anyways ! ) But the two refs decided it was not penalty worthy when the Canucks were already killing one off, and it was a full thirty seconds later that Big Mike tried to get involved.
The Canucks were able to overcome that little bit of trouble, and really had to be commended for their continued drive in the second period, as they continued to push the play. They were able to continue and push while only one goal down because of Eddie Lack's talents. Yes, a couple goals got by him in the first. But really, the rebounds were not his fault, with all the traffic he had, he had no chance on the goals, really. He tightened up after a couple goals for the second straight game. Maturing like a boss !
This time though, the Canucks were not actively trying to seemingly give the game away like on Thursday. They pushed the play, and were finally rewarded, thanks to the youngest guy on the team.
Bo Horvat is growing into a fully rounded NHL player right in front of our eyes, and he made another spectaular play to tie this game up in the second. First, he chipped it by, and blew by, Brent Burns, which is no small feat. Then, while dealing with the hard charging Burns, he held off the big defenseman while also dealing with a rolling puck. To top it off, he waited for the perfect moment ( as soon as Niemi went down ) to chip a rolling puck over the netminder.
It was a play both mature and talented, and typified how this is no ordinary nineteen year old the Canucks have here. He towered over Scott Oakes in the between period interview as well. And I thought Oakes was one of the taller reporters on that show ! Another great play by the young man who keeps making the Schneider trade look better every day for his 10th goal of the season.
Now I know what you are thinking. 2-2 against the Sharks ? On home ice ?! But the Shark Tank is not that scary right now. They are 1-7-2 now since Febuary on home ice, and they were playing one of the top road teams in the league. The game was a continuation of the "playoff intensity" in the third period, and, as Hughson said, "not for the faint of heart".
Early in the final period, another "unsportsmanlike" play by the Sharks almost got them an advantage. With known enforcer Nick Bonino tangled up with Melker Karlsson, the latter responded with a flop that would not have looked out of place on a basketball court, or a soccer field. It could have easily been called an unsportsmanlike penalty, but the refs just tossed both and called them for roughing. That made a the game a four on four affair, and Brent Burns made it a four on three power play for the visitors soon after, when he high sticked Hansen.
With the four on three power play, the Canucks finally made the extra man work for them. This was a goal that was a bit of Sedinery and a bit "meat and potatoes". The former was the sublime backhand pass to Vrbata by Daniel while being checked. The latter was the pure effort by Henrik on hte face off battle while on his knees that eventually led to Daniel getting the puck.
Of course, credit Radim "Sniper" Vrbata for the way he outwaited Niemi and roofed the puck for the goal that eventually sealed the two points for the visitors.
The Sharks pushed hard, of course, to try and tie it up. They had some incredible pressure in close to Eddie Lack. He was so strong on the posts ( on one play where he held it out until the whistle, when it leaked in, his strength prevented the tying goal ), and while he had some help from his defenders clearing the net and rebounds, Eddie Lack was the reason the Canucks came away with the points in this one.
Or at least a BIG part. The Canucks were very good along their own boards, and kept play to the outside as well as they could against a desperate team. The biggest play actually came from the guy with the game winning goal, as Vrbata made a great play clearing one off the line on one of the several Shark goal mouth scrambles. But everyone contributed. Hell, the 4th line was Vey between Burrows and MacMillian, and they were pretty strong defensively while playing the Thornton line late.
Actually, everyone deserved that kind of praise. They may have been protecting the lead and trying to guide the game home, but all the lines did their jobs very well to do just that. This game was also important to win in regulation, as it puts the Sharks six points down on the Canucks, with one less game to play, and a bunch of road games coming up for the team in teal.
Todd Maclellan will have no problem getting another job anyway...
Numbers and Stuff
+64 - That is the combined 5 on 5 Corsi for the Shark top line of Thornton, Pavelski, and Karlsson. ( hockeystats.ca here ) Big Joe was +23, Little Joe +20, and the rookie Karlsson was +21 while the teams were at even strength. They were clearly the best line on the night, but credit all the lines that went against them. While they were dominant, they were also not able to finish and cash in ( more ) on all that pressure because every line that went against them defended like demons.
#53 - This was one helluva game by the Canuck rookie. The goal was all kinds of skill and will. I am going to ignore the -11 Corsi ( like I said, the Sharks came hard, and Horvat's line saw a bunch of time against the Thornton line ) 5 on 5. Instead, check out his "regular" stats. ( those ones here ) The tying goal, of course. Five shots, second only to VrSniper on the night. A +1. and a blocked shot. And, with the Sharks winning the face off battle 39 to 27, he was the best face off guy for his team at 56 % ( 9 of 16 ), Didn't it seem that most of his wins were on faceoffs were in his own end as well ? Just another wonderful night. We are watching him turn into a well rounded player before our very eyes.
40 - The Sharks had 40 shots, and only two goals. Eddie Lack was given the 2nd star by the Sharks' guys ( home 'casters usually do that deed ) in favour of Vrbata and his two goals, including the game winner. While I have no problem with that, I am pretty sure if it was our guys making the call, Eddie would have been the 1st star. He was that good tonight.
17 - The Sedins had a productive game ( 2 assists Daniel, 1 Henrik ), and there were a lot of guys worthy of mention. But the guy with the two goals AND the game saving clear has to get the nod here. He had 6 of 7 shots force a save, and was a danger all night. He skated miles at both ends, and was a +8 at 5 on 5 Corsi. Only Bonino was better, on a night where a lot of guys had a dash.
A big win, and the 20th road win of the year. A win that puts the Sharks in a hole ( of their own devising, but a regulation win for them would have seen them within only 2 points ), and helps the Canucks keep pace with other teams that are pushing. The Canucks are now 6-3-1 in their last ten, while dealing with a long injury list, and while the games in hand have been whittled down to one against only a couple teams, like the Jets and San Jose. They also have 37 regulation wins, more than all the teams they are in a fight with. That could be big if it comes down to the tie breaker.
Well done boys. Ducks up next on Monday.