It appeared headed to overtime, as has been the odd trend of late when the Vancouver Canucks take the ice.
But no, 60 minutes were enough on Wednesday night for the Canucks at home against the Colorado Avalanche, winning 3-1 in regulation after 10 of their previous 13 games had gone to overtime.
“After the second, yeah, I was already getting mentally ready for the shootout, thinking about shooters, the whole thing,” joked Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo after the game. “But it was nice to be able to get one in regulation.”
Perhaps it was no surprise, the win, given the gap in the standings between two teams and Vancouver’s long record of dominance of Colorado. Wednesday night’s W extends the Canucks streak over the Avs to 13-0-2, the last loss coming at the start of the 2009-10 season.
With the win, the Canucks now haven’t lost a game in regulation in a month and are on a 8-0-3 roll, just two points behind the NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings.
Absent, again, in the win was the Canucks’ top line, the Sedins, who for the third straight game went without points. Winger Jannik Hansen cracked home the winner, a one-timer, with 6:29 left the third and the opening notch came from David Booth, who’s been something of a one-man highlight reel this week.
Booth, on the games first shift, passed it up the ice to Mason Raymond, who drove it into Avs’ territory before getting tied up and losing the puck. A blasting Booth picked it up and, as he was about to be hit to the ice, he lifted a backhand past Jean-Sébastien Giguere, 13 seconds into the game.
“I didn’t even know it went in,” said Booth after the game.
Luongo – the night’s first star – was once again a pillar and made solid saves through the game, including a couple big ones late.
Vancouver’s winner was conceded by Colorado backup Semyon Varlamov, who was called to action late in the first when starter Giguère left the game with a groin injury.
The loss is another blow to Colorado, which is playing so-so hockey of late and stands in 10th in the Western Conference, three behind Phoenix in eighth.
As Colorado leaves Vancouver, the city welcomes the travelling Maple Leafs, also fighting for the playoffs. Toronto beat Edmonton 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday after being beat up in Calgary on Tuesday. The Leafs face a real test against the Canucks Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada.
“They’re fighting for a playoff spot, and they’re hungry,” said Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin’s three games without a point is his longest dry spell of this season. It’s not exactly a huge slump but last season’s No. 1 scorer – 41 goals and 104 points in 82 games – isn’t quite the force he was 12 months ago. After 56 games, Sedin’s at 24 goals and 55 points. It would be, if struggles continue, his first season at less than a point-a-game since 2007-08, when he had 74 in 82 games (also the last time the Canucks missed the playoffs).
With one minute left in the second, tied at one against the Avalanche, Sedin’s inability to convert in recent days was in the spotlight. On a power play, a slapshot banged off the boards behind the net and popped back towards Sedin, who was poised beside the net and seemingly set for a pretty easy go-ahead goal – but he wasn’t able to pop it in.
Daniel liked his play Wednesday night. He had five shots on net.
“We played our game, we got our feet moving,” said Sedin. “Tonight, I felt good, our line felt good. We had a lot of chances. That’s all we can worry about. ... We’re winning games.”
Henrik Sedin, on Wednesday night, did what he has done for every regular-season game since before the lockout – lace up his skates, and play. It was his 556th consecutive regular-season contest, which moves Sedin past Danny Grant (early 1970s, Minnesota) into the No. 9 spot among the ironmen in NHL history. Of Sedin’s contemporaries, he is behind only Calgary defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who has played in 563 straight games. A week ago, Sedin’s streak looked in jeopardy. He took a slap shot on the ankle in the first period of a game against Nashville. It was a smack of pain but Sedin played through it, notching two assists in the road win. X-rays didn’t reveal a problem but his status was uncertain for the following Minnesota game until a CT scan didn’t turn up a real issue. The prognosis was the situation wouldn’t worsen, and Sedin played, scoring a goal.
Sixty and done
What, no four-on-four for five minutes, followed by a skills competition, to conclude the contest? Ahead of Monday night’s game, the Canucks had been to overtime 10 of the past 13 games. Eight of those went to a shootout. In Luongo’s six starts before the Avalanche, every single one went to a shootout.
The Canucks aren’t stressed about the run of overtimes – it helps they are winning – and team captain Henrik Sedin and coach Alain Vigneault see it as a kind of live-fire training ground for the helter-skelter of the playoffs. “For our group,” the coach said on Wednesday, “playing in these tight-checking games where you have to go to 65 minutes is a good thing. It prepares the players to play under those pressure situations.” Sedin said the Canucks are comfortable with the game on a razor. “It’s going to happen in the playoffs, even though it’s a different format. It’s a pressure situation and we need to win those.”
The Canucks are no lock in tight situations. The team this season is 17-7-6 in one-goal games, for 40 points, before the Avalanche, which also had 40 points in one-goal games, going 18-9-4.
In games settled in the five-minute overtime period, however, the Canucks are 5-0.