Daniel Sedin did his own dentistry. Smashed in the face by the stick of Los Angeles King Jake Muzzin early in the second period on Monday night, Sedin pulled out a tooth that had been loosened by the blow, and showed the evidence to the referee. There was no blood, so it was only two minutes for high-sticking rather than four. And as is the usual case with the Vancouver Canucks power play, no goal ensued.
It was a chirping testy tilt at Rogers Arena, as the Canucks and Kings fought their way through a heated affair, a game whose middle period especially was filled with fists, general ire, and penalty minutes. The scrapping including Vancouver rookie defenceman Ryan Stanton taking on the Kings’ Jordan Nolan, Stanton 25 pounds lighter and an inch shorter, and holding his own.
The home team was desperate for a confidence-buoying victory, having lost six of the past seven games, staggering to the end of an extended home stand, piling up losses despite solid play.
Against the Kings, through the first two periods, it was tied at one. Vancouver yielded the opening marker in the first on a two-on-one and L.A. gave up a goal late in the second, a long and lucky Chris Tanev slapshot from the point, the defenceman’s first of the year.
The Kings were the better team early on Monday but the Canucks took control in the second period and pushed through the third, taking the lead near the start of the final period on a Henrik Sedin power play goal but ceding it late, when Mike Richards scored with three minutes to go.
The finale was another disheartening blow for Vancouver. In overtime, Anze Kopitar smacked a puck in before a minute had passed and it was 3-2 Kings, a gutting end to a hard home stand, a single win in six games, more defeats than victories even as the Canucks outplayed most of their visitors. Against L.A., the Canucks outshot the Kings 39-22.
Goalie Roberto Luongo was downcast after the loss. “How many times has this happened?” he said. Henrik Sedin said much the same: “We should have had two points but again we’re talking about a loss.”
Vancouver falls to 12-9-5 and is stuck in ninth place in the Western Conference. The team falls to 12-0-4 in games in which they score two or more goals and are 0-9-1 in games in which they score one.
The game was exactly the type the Canucks have to win, a tight and narrow scrap against a strong division rival. It’s only late November but it is not looking good for Vancouver.
The Kings game concluded Vancouver’s longest home stand of the year, nearly two weeks. The Canucks were scheduled to leave Tuesday morning for the nation’s capital, a four-game road trip starting on Thursday against Ottawa. A Saturday matinee in New York follows, against John Tortorella’s old team, the Rangers, now coached by former Canucks boss Alain Vigneault.
Despite the loss, Tortorella said he was “very excited” about many aspects of the Monday game – the bite and tenacity his team showed. “You may call me crazy but I am [excited],” said Tortorella. He went on to say his job is to keep the “psyche” of the Canucks strong, playing well but not seeing the results. “We’ve gone through a lot of crap here,” said Tortorella, adding that “there’s a lot of hockey to play.”
Amid the topsy-turvy play on Monday, Tortorella threw a bit of everything on the ice in almost-wild line combinations, the oddest of which had to be Ryan Kesler with Jannik Hansen and fourth-line plugger Tom Sestito midway through the second period.
David Booth, back on the ice after three games missed as a healthy scratch, put up a pretty good performance and did so as he saw a kaleidoscope of linemates, playing at various points with Hansen and Kesler, as well as combinations of Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian, Richardson and Hansen, and Mike Santorelli and Alex Burrows. In the third, Booth was out with the Sedin twins.
Beyond hockey, the Canucks were already winners on Monday, financial winners, starting with the team owners, the Aquilini family. Earlier in the day, Forbes Magazine, in its annual valuations of National Hockey League teams, pegged the Canucks value at $700-million, more than double what Forbes previously figured the value of the team and Rogers Arena to be, the highest gain of any franchise in the National Hockey League. Forbes’s new number ranks the Canucks at No. 4 in the NHL, behind Toronto, New York, and Montreal – and far higher than No. 10 in the tally, the L.A. Kings worth $450-million, whose value was up nearly two-thirds amid large gains for many teams.
The figures may be ballpark estimates and the new numbers for the Canucks use figures cited by sources based on the recent divorce of Francesco Aquilini. Regardless of the precision, the team and building – and the new towers going up around the arena in downtown Vancouver – have been a boon for the Aquilinis, under whom every single regular– and postseason game has been sold out, since the family bought half the enterprise nine years ago this month, and the rest seven years ago this month. So even if the business of winning on the ice is much more difficult these days for the hockey team, the business of hockey on Canada’s West Coast is a profitable one.