Canucks survive slow start to beat Wild 5-2
Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 10:43 PM
Dan Myers - NHL.com CorrespondentST. PAUL
-- For a minute Thursday night, it looked like the Minnesota Wild
were ready to knock off one of the Western Conference's top teams. And by a minute, the Wild meant 13 seconds.
Minnesota set a franchise record for fastest goal from the start of a game -- scoring just 13 seconds after the opening faceoff -- but generated little offense the rest of the way in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver at Xcel Energy Center.
After Dany Heatley
capped a 2-on-1 break on the game's first shift with his 18th of the season, Vancouver slowly chipped away at the Wild's momentum and eventually took command in the opener of Minnesota's four-game homestand.
Wild coach Mike Yeo was up front with his disappointment, not only about Thursday but over the last two months. Once owners of the best record in the National Hockey League, Minnesota has captured just 15 points since mid-December -- second-worst in the League.
Other than the game's first couple of minutes, the Wild played disinterested hockey again for much of the night.
"We flat-out stink the last two months. We stink, and we come in and we don't have good enough effort from too many guys," Yeo said. "That's concerning. I'm concerned about the fact that we come into games and we don't have enough guys when we should have absolute desperation in our game.
"Playing against a team like this and we have too many guys not ready to pay a price. That's speaking honestly right now."
Yeo was especially upset with his team's inability to create any offense. After scoring just three goals in their previous three games, the Wild again seemed unwilling, or unable, to create good chances -- or any chances at all. Over a 25-minute stretch from the first period into the second, Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider
was challenged with a single shot. Vancouver held the Wild off the shot clock for the first 9:09 of the second period.
Meanwhile, the Canucks took advantage of any opportunity they could find.
Minnesota's Matt Cullen
went to the penalty pox for high sticking at 12:35 of the first, and Nate Prosser
followed him there 14 seconds later, giving the League's top-ranked power play 1:46 of 5-on-3 time. After some nifty passing behind the net, and a little puck luck, Daniel Sedin
tapped in a rebound off a shot by Alexander Edler
that rang the post at 14:04.
With less than a minute remaining in the period, Edler blasted another shot from the point. The puck pinballed off a host of players in front of Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom
and came free in the left circle to Maxim Lapierre
, who blasted home the rebound for his sixth of the season at 19:18.
Just 50 seconds into the second period, the Canucks made it 3-1 when Byron Bitz
lifted a saucer pass over a sprawled Nick Schultz
to Henrik Sedin
, whose backhander went off the post and danced on the goal line. But Backstrom, sprawled himself in front of it, was in no position to stop Sedin from tapping in the rebound for a two-goal lead.
"It killed the game a little bit for us -- we were happy to be up 2-1, but getting that third one early on really gave us the momentum," said Henrik Sedin
, who played one day after having a CT scan on his ankle after blocking a shot Tuesday in Nashville. "It let us play a little bit looser than maybe we normally do."
For Yeo, the way Vancouver jumped ahead two goals was exceedingly frustrating.
"We're 28th in the League in offense, and you look at the goals they scored tonight," Yeo said. "They have a point shot and a deflection, a point shot and a rebound, the 5-on-3 was a point shot and a rebound. And we still want to skate the puck into the net or pass the puck six times to get the puck to the net.
"You think you'd look at a team that's that skilled, that scores that many goals, and say 'Wow, they score goals like that, that might be a good idea for us to try.' But it's tough to get that across right now."
Vancouver produced a workmanlike effort all night. Once the Canucks got ahead, their lead never seemed in jeopardy. In fact, they seemed to get better, especially in their own end, as the game went on.
"This was our best game in a long time," Henrik Sedin
said. "We had a 60-minute effort, and although we had a terrible start, guys bounced back. Everyone did their job and that's what we need."
"Guys took control," Schneider said. "[The defense] was great, they were getting sticks into lanes, breaking up passes, blocking shots. They did a lot of great things."
For his part, Schneider was solid all night, sniffing out a Devin Setoguchi
chance late in the second and making a big stop on Heatley four minutes into the third to preserve the two-goal advantage. Minutes later, he withstood a nearly minute-long barrage of shots.
Just seconds later, after achieving its first line change in nearly two minutes, Vancouver scored off a tipped shot from the point by Kevin Bieksa
. Manny Malhotra
was credited with his fifth of the season at 7:32.
"We played real, real solid. Obviously they had that first chance right off the hop there, but I thought our guys reacted real well," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "When it was time to be physical and gritty, I think our guys were physical and gritty.
"We did what we needed to do tonight to get 2 points in a tough environment."
The Wild got a late power play goal from Setoguchi, who beat Schneider with a wrister from the right circle at 15:58. The goal was Minnesota's first power-play tally against the Canucks this season, breaking an 0-for-14 skid. The goal provided the Wild with one final short burst of energy before Ryan Kesler
's empty-netter with 1:13 remaining capped scoring.
"What did we think, we were going to come in here and out-skill that team tonight?" Yeo said rhetorically. "That didn't work for us against Columbus (a 3-1 loss on Tuesday)."
For all the heartache the Sedins have caused Minnesota fans over the years -- their goals Thursday were their 26th and 27th all-time against the Wild -- it was the first time both had scored against Minnesota in the same game. Both capitalized on rebounds off the post.
"During the course of the season, you're going to get some bounces here and there," said Henrik Sedin
. "Tonight, we got them."