Montréal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks @ Rogers Arena
Trying to avoid the Western Sweep, the Habs search for a win against the NHL's top team on their home ice. They have a lot to prove to themselves after a loss against Edmonton and a horrible loss against Calgary.
The Canucks look to defend their home ice and increase their record at home to remain the best home-team in the NHL as they gain back two bodies on the blue-line: Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard.
The last time the Habs were in Vancouver, Carey Price let in seven goals. A couple of nights ago, he let in four at the Heritage Classic. Price looked to redeem himself and he did a very good job doing so.
Price had a little help from his offence specialists on his team. In the first period alone the Habs were in front of the shot total race with 16-12 for the visiting team. In the first 8 minutes, the shots were already 8-1 for the Habs and the score 2-0 for them as well! The first Canadiens' goal was from David Descharnais with assists from Benoit Pouliot and Hal Gill with a nice backhand into the back of Roberto Luongo's net.
The second Habs' goal went in by the means of Brian Gionta's stick. The assists went to PK Subban and Scott Gomez. It was a close goal (9 feet away) and was what the Habs had been missing for the past couple of games - goals from the dirty areas. You have to come to terms that you won't always get the prettiest of goals. Just have to get it done one way or another.
No Canuck fan would be pleased with how the team was playing at Rogers Arena. It wasn't pretty. Sluggish, lam, and ultimately not good hockey was how the Canucks played. It appeared that the Canucks just wasn't in the game yet. I might've even gone as far as to say that there wasn't much of a pulse in the Vancouver team. But to prove critics wrong, they came back in the second period to score.
Just 3:27 into the middle period, the Canucks capitalise on a powerplay. Henrik Sedin took a pass from Mikael Samuelsson and Ryan Kesler to break the ostrich egg on the board and get his team up on the board. But despite doing the outshooting (14-4 in the second, 26-20 at the end of 40 minutes) they ended up still being down two after a goal from Andrei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn received the puck from Lars Eller along the goal-line just to sweep the pass into the back of Luongo's net. Bobby Lou just was not fast enough to keep up on that play.
The Canucks started the third down by two but there are pros to starting a period on the PP. Mikael Samuelsson took advantage of this man-advantage and put the Canucks within one. The puck was passed around the perimeter of the offensive zone (Daniel Sedin from behind the goal, to Christian Ehrhoff at the wing, and to Samuelsson at the point) before finding itself to the back of the Canadiens' net by the Swede's one-timer at the point. Ryan Kesler scrambled to get in front of the net when he saw where the puck was going, and got there just in time to block Price's vision of the puck flying past his stick-side, into the back of his net. See Kesler, you don't have to know where the puck is. Just know that it's coming towards the net.
The third period was probably the best Vancouver period of the game. The team in the retro jerseys appeared to have screwed on their hockey helmets and knocked some hockey sense into their heads. They played with more bite, more zip, and more hunger than I had seen in the previous forty minutes. And the defensive side of their game defintely improved! They covered their checks, hunted down the puck, and played with a good forecheck. But no matter how good it was, it wasn't enough as the Canucks fell by inches and a goal.
Not detracting from anyone's talent, but Luongo and Price are playing very well!! In the Heritage Classic, Price was the star player for the Habs, being the one to keep his team in it until they were down by three (or four...). Luongo has been one of the key players as to why the Canucks are just so damn good this year! It truly did become an outshine-the-other-goalie night. Being a very biased fan (to which team, you couldn't tell) both goalies had a flutter moment, but played very well otherwise. Both goalies made some incredible saves and stole some very good scoring chances from threatening scorers.
'Twas a good game between these the best Canadian team in the West and the best Canadian team in the East, but it was a team that had something to prove and a sweep to avoid that won. Took them 11 years to win in Vancouver, but they did it. And they did it while being outshot 25-39.
If you're a Vancouver fan and a little put down by this (you shouldn't be. You're still at the top. You're not going to win every game and think of this as a kick in the can from reality.) try to pick yourself by hunting Tom Cruise in Vancouver. He's in town filming the next Mission Impossible. And who else? The cast of Breaking Dawn (yes, the 'Twilight' series is still going [as much as we want Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, and the rest of the cast to disappear]) is flying into the best city in the world.
(1) Carey Price
(2) Ryan Kesler
(3) Brian Gionta