That’s really what you went with, headline writer? NHL.com
The Vancouver Canucks overcame a fluky goal against in the first sequence of the game to knock off the San Jose Sharks,
improving their record against San Jose to 11-7-5 in their last 23 games to snap a nine-game losing streak against their Northern California rivals. The Canucks overall played a lights-out defensive game in the first period, and followed it up with a lights-out goaltending performance by Roberto Luongo in the third as the Sharks clawed back, but Vancouver held for a 4-2 victory.
There’s some hilarious irony to hearing Sharks fans boo their team off the ice (this was their first regulation loss in eight games at home) and at the end of a third period powerplay that was held ineffective (the same powerplay that over the last several years has been the best in the league by a longshot). Vancouver, though, gets full marks for the win Thursday night, keeping the Sharks’ dangerous first three lines out of the black through two.
There have been some fluky goals already this season. Jonathan Quick vs. the Rangers. Roberto Luongo vs. the Canadiens. Jonathan Bernier vs. the Hurricanes. Justin Peters vs. the Lightning. Marc-Andre Fleury vs. the Canucks. Just 1:17 into the game, Joe Thornton gained the line and dumped the puck behind the net, where it took a hop off the back boards, rolled up the side of the net and…
…you just knew at that point what was coming. There’s no way to prepare for a goal against like that, but it gave the Canucks a significant handicap. Luckily, though, there was still almost a full hockey game to play. Better to be behind 1-0 on a fluke goal 1:17 into the game than with 1:17 remaining.
The Canucks struck quickly with a goal of their own, this one off a broken zone exit. Marc-Edouard Vlasic fired the puck around the boards to Tyler Kennedy. Kevin Bieksa, known for his pinches (we’ll get to that later) got lucky with this one, as Kennedy misplayed it off his foot and Bieksa was able to keep it in. Darren Archibald, who would have been late out of the zone on a clean breakout, was right in position to stick check Vlasic and the puck came right to Brad Richardson. It was a pretty quick sequence.
Five minutes later, the Canucks struck again with their prettiest goal on the night:
Dat pass from Chris Tanev tho.
Mike Santorelli, Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins had another great game together. Not only did that line score two goals, but they held the San Jose Sharks top line to a minus-5 Corsi through two frames (12 attempts for the Canucks, 7 for the Sharks). Since being put together, that line has been doing it against very good competition, and the offence is a bonus.
Tanev didn’t get an assist on the play, which really is too bad, because he made it happen. There aren’t a lot of times when it’s wise to make cross-ice, blueline-to-blueline pass against the San Jose Sharks, but Tanev spotted the line change. Beautiful play.
The Sharks got it right back though. This time, Bieksa picked the wrong time to pinch, or… whatever it was he’s doing here:
It’s not like that’s NHL superstar Mike Brown speeding by you. That is traded-by-both-the-Maple-Leafs-and-the-Oilers-in-a-calendar-year Mike Brown. Bieksa otherwise had a pretty good game, but this was a hilarious sequence that led to a quick transition goal. Again an unlucky break for Luongo.
Luckily, though, Antti Niemi, who looked pretty bleak against Buffalo, is STILL deciding whether he should come out and pokecheck or fall on this loose puck:
It’s a pretty bad pass by Jason Demers, but Niemi is just caught in between decisions. It’s a goal you can chalk up to bad luck in part because his defencemen ran into each other, but Chris Higgins just walked in without any sort of resistance from Niemi. He didn’t position himself for the save, he didn’t try to fall on the puck, he was just… there.
(Everytime I watch that goal I have an urge to book my next trip with Ramada and I don’t know why)
Niemi was mercifully pulled at the start of the second period on a puck that hit Zack Kassian in front and deflected in. That’s Kassian’s fourth goal in 13 games. Shades of last season, where Kassian scored five in his first 13 games. Well, he also scored five in his first seven, and he also scored five in his first 27.
The shots after 40 minutes were 26-11. The shot attempts were 37-25 and the Canucks had a two-goal lead. Everything was going right for them. All they needed was a strong third period, with Luongo making 13 stops and the Sharks taking two late undisciplined minor penalties to keep the home side off the board and break the slump.
It’s funny. Right at the start of the third period, John Garrett said something to the effect of “well, no team has held the Sharks to 20 shots or fewer this year”. Evidently, Garrett has not heard of score effects. Regular readers of Canucks Army, or any blog that has a writer or two well-versed in stats, that trailing teams generally pepper their opponents in the third. You can see that happening here. The Sharks more than doubled their two-period total in the third.
What’s important is how the Canucks played through two. I looked at each San Jose centreman, registered his on-ice shots attempted For and Against (Corsi) and in parentheses noted the Canuck that played the most against them:
Joe Thornton: 7-12 (vs. Santorelli)
Logan Couture: 6-10 (vs. Sedin)
Joe Pavelski: 4-8 (vs. Richardson)
Andrew Desjardins: 4-3 (vs. Welsh)
That’s a pretty good all-around performance, I figure. Tomas Hertl was barely a factor, without a single shot on goal (although at the end, Thornton had four shots and Tommy Wingels had three. Other than that, was there a consistently dangerous Shark?
The Santorelli line had its issues in the third (helped along by John Tortorella sending Santorelli out for seven defensive zone faceoffs, leading the team), as Todd McLellan continued to deploy Thornton against them, but Henrik Sedin’s line, despite Sedin’s point-streak snapping, held the Sharks second line in check.
Big night too for Jason Garrison and Alex Edler. They’d been a tire fire so far this year on defence, but were +5 and +2, respectively, the only Canucks in the positives (Bieksa-Ryan Stanton were even) on the night. They matched up with Richardson against the Logan Couture line, generally, but also saw four minutes against the top line. Big ups to Extra Skater for all this info.
Oh, and Roberto Luongo is good. Stopped 22 of 24 for a quality start and the W.