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Streak-busting Canucks' formula: score first, hold lead

Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:10 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Streak-busting Canucks' formula: score first, hold lead
NHL.com goes inside the numbers to prove the Vancouver Canucks are masters at scoring first and playing with leads.
Though they had to come from behind on Thursday to end Detroit's record home winning streak, the Vancouver Canucks generally have a simple formula for success -- score first and shut down the opposition in the final 20 minutes.

The Canucks enter the weekend having scored first a League-high 40 times in their 61 games -- and have turned those 40 first-goals into 33 wins. No other team has won more than 29 times when scoring first, and their .825 winning percentage is fourth.

The flip side of Vancouver's success in taking leads is its ability to keep them. The Canucks have led after two periods 25 times this season -- and turned all 25 into victories. They have the most wins of any team that's perfect after two periods - the others are Boston (24-0-0) and Washington (17-0-0).

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

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Nor is this season's success unusual. Since 2006-07, the Canucks are an NHL-best 182-3-12 when they enter the third period with the lead. That includes a streak of 94 games (91-0-3) of not losing in regulation when leading after two periods.

Not that winning when you're down after two periods is easy. Through Thursday's games, just 38 of the 695 teams that took a lead into the third period went home empty-handed. Another 61 lost in overtime or a shootout. One reason for the Columbus Blue Jackets' last-place record is that they've lost six times in regulation when leading through 40 minutes; no other team has lost more than three such games.

Good tip -- The Phoenix Coyotes are another team that knows how to turn good starts into two points. Since Dave Tippett took over as coach at the start of 2009-10, the Coyotes are 92-12-14 (.780 winning percentage) when scoring first, including 25-4-5 this season.

Stevie Wonder -- Not that he's a slouch against his own conference, but Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos is an absolute terror against the West.

The NHL's leading goal-scorer scored his 41st and 42nd goals of the season in Tuesday night's 3-2 win against Anaheim. They were the 15th and 16th he's scored in the Lightning's 16 games against the Western Conference; he has "only" 27 in Tampa Bay's 44 games against the East, including one against Winnipeg on Thursday.

Nor is Stamkos' dominance of the West a one-year phenomenon -- he has scored 47 times in his last 60 interconference games. The bad news for Stamkos: He has only two games left against the West this season -- home games against the Blues and Oilers in mid-March.

Slump-busters -- In a remarkable three-day stretch, the NHL's three longest active goal-scoring droughts all ended.

On Feb. 16, San Jose defenseman Colin White ended a 148-game goal drought when he scored at Tampa Bay. One night later, Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank snapped the longest active drought of any player when he scored his first in 167 games against New Jersey -- and 24 hours later, Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman scored his first goal since Jan. 7, 2010, ending a 150-game drought.

That spurt began six days after Anaheim's George Parros ended the longest goal drought among forwards when he scored twice against Florida; he had gone 83 games without scoring.

The longest drought now belongs to Tampa Bay defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, who has not scored a goal in his 106 NHL games. Among forwards, Edmonton's Darcy Hordichuk has gone 82 games without a goal.

Matt Cooke
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 24
SOG: 111 | +/-: 0
The hard way -- The first 3-on-5 goal of the 2011-12 season belongs to Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke, who scored against Philadelphia on Feb. 18 with his team playing down two men. Toronto's Tyler Bozak and Boston's Gregory Campbell had the lone 3-on-5 goals last season (not counting a penalty-shot goal by the Islanders' Frans Nielsen while his team was playing two men down.

It was the first such goal by the Penguins since Mario Lemieux had one more than 23 years ago -- against Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 1988.

Better when close -- The New York Islanders are still a long shot to make the playoffs, but if they do, their ability to come through in games that are tied after 40 minutes will be a major reason why.

The Isles enter the weekend with just 25 wins, but 10 of those have come in games that were tied following two periods. In all, the Islanders are 10-2-1 in those games -- but just 13-1-5 when leading after 40 minutes and 2-24-2 when trailing. The five overtime/shootout losses when leading after two periods are the most in the League.

If the Islanders do miss the postseason for the fifth straight season, one key reason will be their inability to hang onto multiple-goal leads. New York has failed to win six times this season when leading by more than one goal.

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic