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Vancouver Canucks' Rick Rypien, left, celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers with teammates Tanner Glass and Christian Ehrhoff during third period NHL hockey in Vancouver, British Columbia November 3, 2009. (ANDY CLARK)
Vancouver Canucks' Rick Rypien, left, celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers with teammates Tanner Glass and Christian Ehrhoff during third period NHL hockey in Vancouver, British Columbia November 3, 2009. (ANDY CLARK)

Samuelsson pushes Canucks past Rangers Add to ...

The Vancouver Canucks won 4-1 over the New York Rangers on Tuesday, taking their third of four starts without superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Canucks may have also stumbled on some more offence in the form of defenceman-turned-winger Kevin Bieksa - who had two scoring chances and three shots on net in his first professional game up front - and they survived a third-period scrum where they were badly outnumbered.

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That was the good news for the NHL team, but it came with some bad. And as per usual in this season of horrid luck for the Canucks, it comes on the injury front.

Henrik Sedin was seen limping after this spirited NHL contest, favouring his right leg which was struck by an Ales Kotalik slapshot in the third period.

The Canucks are already without six injured forwards and Luongo (fractured rib), which has forced defencemen to play up front on four occasions this year, including Tuesday when Bieksa played right wing for the first time since he was 15. He also joined Mathieu Schneider and Aaron Rome on the list of Vancouver defencemen who have played wing this year.

"We've had so many injuries that I wouldn't say I was totally shocked," Bieksa said. "I knew it was a matter of time before [head coach Alain Vigneault] decided to put me up there.

"It was fun."

Bieksa was also front-and-centre during a third-period scrum, which occurred as both teams were making line changes, and resulted in about 15 players tussling by the benches - most of them Rangers. It also resulted in a testy exchange between Canucks defenceman Shane O'Brien and Rangers super-pest Sean Avery, who were jawing from their respective benches when the former began gently poking the latter with the butt-end of his stick.

O'Brien received one of five misconducts assessed during the melee, and had to be restrained by an official and Vigneault. The strapping rearguard ran from his stall when reporters entered Vancouver's dressing room after the game, apparently unwilling to talk about his role in the brouhaha, or about his third-period benching, which preceded the tough stuff.

As for the game, Mikael Samuelsson scored twice while Ryan Kesler - unquestionably the best Canuck this season - added three assists. Rick Rypien scored the game-winner midway through the third, while Sedin returned from the medical room to add an empty-netter.

Goaltender Andrew Raycroft turned in another splendid performance filling in for Luongo, turning away 22 shots. He was only beaten by a Christopher Higgins power-play goal after the scrum, as the Rangers forward snapped his season-long goal-less drought to knot the score 1-1.

"Obviously, with the injuries, we're a grinding team right now," Raycroft said of another ugly win. "But we're being rewarded, so it makes a big difference for the team moral."

Higgins's goal came because the Canucks were given an extra penalty during the free-for-all, and Vigneault said that general manager Mike Gillis would speak to the NHL about the matter. Bieksa may also have to speak with the league.

The five-year veteran was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty a few minutes after the fireworks. He said it was for slamming the bench gate following a verbal exchange with an official.

Bieksa's explanation amounted to: 'he started it.'

"The referee decided he wanted to come over after the goal and verbally engage with me for a bit," he said. "I sat there and took it, and when he left I slammed the door. What can you do? In my eyes it was pretty unfair, but that's the way the game goes, I guess.

"I thought he antagonized me. He came over to antagonize me. As soon as he got a little bit out of me, he gave me two. I'm sure he knew what he was doing."

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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