Vancouver - Dec. 27, 2011 - The Vancouver Canucks started tonight’s game with one thing and one thing only on their minds as they welcomed the displaced Edmonton Oilers to Rogers Arena, and that was to make amends for their poor performance against the Calgary Flames last Thursday night. And after the first 20 minutes of play, the Canucks had succeeded in atoning for their loss to the Flames by taking out their frustrations on a clearly shell shocked Oilers team and handed them a 5-3 loss in the process!
After watching the first 20 minutes of play, one would think the Canucks got nothing but Reindeer Poo in their stockings for Christmas because they came out hitting and banging every Oiler that moved close to the puck, especially Ryan Kesler! Kesler played like he had an axe to grind all game as his physical play took it’s toll on the young Oilers early in the first period. And when Kesler wasn’t hitting and banging everything that moved, he was putting pucks in the net as he finished the night with a goal and an assist.
I think it would be safe to say that the game was over after the first period as the Canucks were up 3-0 on a pair of goals by Andrew Ebbett, and Daniel Sedin. Yes, Ebbett opened the scoring early in the first period by having a Higgins shot deflect off his skate past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to put the Canucks up 1-0. At 8:13 Daniel Sedin scored on a controversial play when he tripped up Oiler defender Lennart Petrell on his way to in front of the net and scored on a pass from brother Henrik. Was it a penalty? Absolutely. But one can only wonder where the two referees were looking during Daniel’s can opener! Maybe if the game would have ended closer, the non-call could be debated, but in the end it really didn’t matter. Plus in the second period, the Referees would even it up on a call that shouldn’t have even been made. The Oilers showed a little bit of heart as they pushed back in the back half of the period with good pressure in the Canucks zone, but just couldn’t solve the Canucks defense. Ebbett scored to make it 3-0 late in the first with a well timed cross ice pass from Jannik Hansen to Ebbett who tipped it in past a Khabibulin. Less than a minute later, Daniel Sedin missed a golden opportunity to put the Canucks up 4-0, but rattled his wrist shot off the crossbar instead.
The Oilers did come out in the second period and make the game interesting playing a strong period, showing the Canucks they weren’t going to go down without a fight, even while short handed. With Shawn Horcoff sitting in the box for hooking, the Oilers had two short handed scoring opportunities, but couldn’t beat Luongo on either of them. It was a lethargic power play by the Canucks, who didn’t get a shot on Khabibulin until 6:28 of the period! That’s right, it took the Canucks almost 7 minutes before their first shot on net in the second period, which was a shock and complete turnaround from their play in the first period. Were the Oilers getting better, or were the Canucks falling into complacency after going up 3-0? It didn’t really matter because at 8:28, the referee’s called Dale Weise for charging when he absolutely planted Alex Plante’s face into the glass on a very clean, very hard body check. The ref’s saw fit to give Weise a 5 minute major and a game for his body check on Plante, which the Oilers capitalized on by scoring two goals while on the extended power play. But 46 seconds after Jordan Eberle scored the first power play goal for the Oil, Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler teamed up to score a short handed marker to regain the Canucks 3 goal lead. But less than a minute after Burrows scored, Oilers Ryan Smyth put the puck past Luongo on an almost exact scoring play that Burrows beat Khabibulin with, and that was taking a cross crease pass from a team mate and banging the puck into the open side of the net. After 40 minutes it was the Canucks holding onto a 4-2 lead, with the feisty Oilers coming on stronger as the game wore on. I’ll say one thing about the Oilers, and that is their youthful exuberance has them forgetting how to roll over and admit defeat, because these kids just keep on coming back for more!
The Canucks started the third period like they started the first, with good pressure, and it paid off as Ryan Kesler scores the goal that seemed to take the air out of the Oilers sails on a beauty of a pass from his partner in crime Alex Burrows. With Burrows taking a pass from Alexander Edler all alone at the side of the net, he skated out in front of Khabibulin looking like he was going to shoot, but rather he passed it off to a streaking Ryan Kesler charging hard to the net, who tipped in the pass to make it 5-2. Corey Potter scored a lucky one a few minutes later as he shot from the blue line through a screen which beat Luongo who had no idea where the puck was as he was completely screened on the play.
Bottom line is the Canucks played the way a team plays when they are atop of the Division standings, which they are thanks not only to their win tonight, but also to Minnesota’s loss to the Avalanche as they continue their spiral down the standings. The Oilers deserve credit for not rolling over early in this game and continued to battle back until the final whistle, but if it wasn’t for the Referee’s call on Weise for his hit in the second period, this game would have ended up with a more lopsided score than it did. It will be interesting to see what, if anything the league has to say about Weise’s hit on Plante, because by definition, his hit was clean. It was a solid shoulder on shoulder hit that just happened to catch Plante a little extended which forced his face to be facing the glass when the impact occurred. If Sheriff Shanny deems it necessary to hand out supplemental discipline to Weise, then the league will need to seriously consider what the definition of a clean hit is.
It’s back on the road for the Canucks who will face the Sharks at the tank on Wednesday, and will need the same intensity they played with tonight to face the tough Sharks squad.