Canucks-'Canes: Exciting Finish Propels Canucks To First Win in Nine Games
Forward Alex Burrows scored a short-handed goal with 1:22 left in the third period, and Mats Sundin was back to his normal self, as he tallied two points—his game-high for 2008-'09—and the Vancouver Canucks won for the first time in nine games.
A penalty to Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour 2:08 in gave the Canucks a very early power play, and Vancouver made the most of it.
Kevin Bieksa scored on a snap shot in the slot after receiving a nice kickout pass down near the side of the goal from Henrik Sedin. Forward Taylor Pyatt screened Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (who still got a piece of the puck) to the shot, and it looked like the puck might have caromed off his stick into the net. But the goal was awarded to Bieksa.
About 10 minutes later forward Ryan Kesler scored the Canucks' second goal. A teammate who was skating around the back of the net saw Kesler camped out on the glove side of the net and flicked him the puck. Kesler one-timed the pass by Ward into the net.
Just like that, the Canucks had a 2-0 lead.
Vancouver had other chances to score in the first period, including a power play 4:56 in awarded for a hooking penalty to 'Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu. But none of them were converted.
The Hurricanes got their share of scoring chances in the opening period, too, but Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was on his game for the first time in a long time and shut the door on all of the Hurricanes' 10 shots.
The Canucks went into the first intermission with a solid lead because they were more efficient with their scoring chances and had a decided edge in energy level.
The Hurricanes found their groove in the second period however.
D-man Joe Corvo found the back of the net on the 'Canes second power play of the game after Bieksa was whistled for high-sticking 10:50 into the period. Forward Eric Staal, stickhandling near the face-off circle on Luongo's glove side, found Corvo near the face-off circle on Luongo's blocker side and set him up for a one-timer.
Corvo's heavy shot zoomed between Luongo's blocker and the goal post, and the Hurricanes were on the board.
At the 8:21 mark of the period, F Ray Whitney kicked the puck out to defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who was stationed in almost the identical spot where Corvo banged his goal home.
Pitkanen placed his bid perfectly, as the rubber shot through Luongo's five-hole for the Hurricanes' second goal of the game.
Both of Carolina's first two goals came on plays where Luongo was forced to try to move laterally with a burst from one side of the net to the other but couldn't do it.
However, on a defensive breakdown, Vancouver forward Mats Sundin was allowed to make two attempts at a wrap-around goal in succession with about five minutes left in the third period.
On the first try Sundin tested his luck with Cam Ward's glove side, but Ward was hugging the post and would not be moved. But the save Ward was forced to make kept him out of position to cover or catch the puck after the shot. Instead the puck ricocheted off of his chest protector and conveniently bounced right back to Sundin.
Sundin then corralled the puck, guided it around to the far post, and used every bit of his 6'5" frame to get the puck centered in the front part of the slot.
The puck slid across the front of the crease and deflected off of the inside of Ward's left skate blade into the net. The late goal gave Vancouver the momentum heading into the final period, but the 'Canes had one last breath left before the Canucks silenced them for good.
Before even a minute of the third period had expired, Eric Staal had scored Carolina's third goal and created the second tie of the game, putting the game up for grabs once again.
After Ruutu aggressively forechecked for Carolina and dumped the puck back out to the point where Joe Corvo was situated waiting for the puck, Corvo faked a shot twice before passing off to Ray Whitney on the opposite side of the ice. Whitney one-touched a pass that looked like a shot to Staal, who was in prime position for a one-timer near the right side of the net.
Staal snapped a quick, low shot to Luongo's blocker side, finishing the job and equating the score.
After Staal's goal the game progressed in the Canucks' favor so much it was like the hockey gods were willing Vancouver to a win, as though they felt sorry for the Canucks and their fans.
Hurricanes Chad LaRose and Ryan Bayda were both called for questionable goaltender interference penalties with under 10 minutes left in regulation. These infractions created two power plays which the Canucks could use to win and put away the game. But the Hurricanes killed them both off.
Ironically, the dagger came on a Hurricanes power play. With about 33 seconds remaining in Carolina's final power play of the game, 'Canes defenseman Joni Pitkanen tried to pinch on the high forecheck to keep the zone.
Instead, Canuck Ryan Kesler got to the puck and easily got a lead pass out to forward Alex Burrows, who was streaking up the ice with no Carolina skater anywhere near him.
As he approached the net, he switched to his backhand with perfect timing. Ward's guess that Burrows would take a quick shot to his blocker side was far off. Burrows ended up burying his shot into the top right-hand corner of the net for the winner.
The Three Stars
First star: Mats Sundin, with two points—a goal and an assist
Second star: Ryan Kesler, with three points and the assist on the game-winner
Third star: Alex Burrows, with the game-winning goal. What's more, he scored it while his team was short-handed.
The Hurricanes' next game will be in the Shark Tank against the San Jose Sharks, the best team in the Western Conference. The game is slated for 10:30 (EST) on Feb. 5.
The Canucks' next game is at home against the Blackhawks, and is set to begin at 7:00 PM (PST).
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