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A haloed attack

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Things aren’t going well for the Vancouver Canucks these days, they’re going extremely well.

Not only did the Canucks take down the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Sunday night, but they did it in a way that had only been done three times in franchise history: by not taking a single penalty.

Discipline was the name of the game as the Canucks took a page out of Kyle Wellwood’s book of sainthood in avoiding the sin bin and not giving their lackluster penalty kill a chance to be impacted.

Exactly how big this was for Vancouver can be summed up by the fact that when coach Alain Vigneault stepped up to the microphone to do his post-game press conference, he started off with “We found a way not to give up a power play goal, I thought it was great, we were 100 per cent.”

Clearly Vigneault was excited as no one had even quizzed him about it yet.

No prodding was required as AV simply spilt the beans – it was odd, yet welcomed, same goes for Vancouver’s calm, controlled play on this night.

The Canucks opened the scoring at 10:28 of the first period and doubled their lead 48 seconds later, the Canadiens responded with a goal before the period was through to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes.

A late goal in the second increased Vancouver’s lead to 3-1 before an early third period score put the home team up 4-1; it was a Lazy Boy comfortable lead, but without so much as a peep from the refs all game in disciplining the Canucks, it seemed too good to be true.

Everyone in the house thought the Canucks were bound to end up in the box sometime, leaving their 25th ranked penalty killing unit, which had given up a power play goal in 14 of the team’s last 15 outings, to fend off an assumingly intense Canadiens attack.

Good thing no bets were laid on that hunch as not even Shane O’Brien, the sultan of the sin bin, earned a slap on the wrist in a heavenly effort from the Canucks.

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever been, maybe in novice,” O’Brien said when asked if he’s ever played a game without his team taking a penalty.

“I thought we played in their face, but at the same time within the rules. We kept our sticks on the ice and it was a good team game tonight.”

“We had a lot of problems with that a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve been talking about it and it’s been decent and today it was really good,” added Henrik Sedin.

“That’s the way you win games right now.”

Without spending time killing penalties the Canucks were able to focus on putting goals on the scoreboard and shamwow did they ever do that.

Nine players recorded at least a single point as balanced scoring paved the way for another big win, the third time in five games that’s been the case.

In a 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 7, 10 Canucks picked up points; three nights later in a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Blues, nine skaters hit the scoresheet.

“It’s really important,” said Ryan Kesler. “We’ve got scoring from more than one line and our defence is starting to score again so if we can keep that up and get all four lines going, we’re going to be a scary team.”

The most impressive combo, for the second straight game, was the Sedins with Alex Burrows, followed closely by an RPM line that is looking near impossible to stop.

Kesler provided the insurance fourth goal off a tight pass from Mats Sundin that he howitzered home on a 2-on-1, but it was a tic-tac-toe highlight reel gem that ended up as the game-winner.

With less than a minute remaining in the second period, Sami Salo carefully cleared the puck out of the Vancouver zone. Burrows jumped on it at the Montreal blueline taking the puck in down the left side before hitting Daniel Sedin with a soft pass up the middle of the ice. Drawing the attention of two defenders, Danny waited for Henrik and passed the puck back to him coming in full speed down the middle.

When Henrik is in that close, it’s automatic, as Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak found out.

“They’ve been really playing well together and tonight they got rewarded so hopefully it’s the start of something good,” assessed Vigneault.

“I think my job is to give them the puck and that’s what I tried to do tonight,” said Burrows.

“Go to the net, try to find loose pucks for them and when I get the chance, just shoot and when I shoot I have to put them in. I had a few chances there, wish I could have them back, but overall I like how we played and especially how the team played.”

Not be overlooked in all the haloed play and the balanced scoring is the effort Roberto Luongo put forth in winning his fifth straight start. He made 25 saves in only allowing a pair of goals, the fewest he’s given up in his last six starts.

“I felt pretty good all night, I kind of felt that way against Phoenix as well and didn’t get the bounces,” said Luongo.

Louie and the Canucks jump up to fifth in the wild wild Western Conference standings with the win; a monster divisional game now looms on the horizon with Vancouver in Calgary on Tuesday.

– Penalties taken by the Canucks, the fourth time in team history they've been so disciplined

4 – Game-winning goals for Henrik Sedin this season

9 – Players recorded points for Vancouver in another balanced attack

25 – Saves for Roberto Luongo, who won his fifth straight start

165-57-24 Vancouver's all-time record when Daniel and Henrik both record a point in the same game; they had four on this night

If you take away Vancouver's top line, it comes at you with its second.

Focus on the second and its vice versa; the one left alone is clicking with ease right now.

Both lines were in on the scoring against the Habs combining for three goals.

It was the third time in five games that at least nine players have recorded points as balanced scoring has become the name of the game for the Canucks.

Vancouver outshot Montreal 34-27.

There is no way the backend could have played a more tough, physical, gritty game without taking a penalty.

The defence was rock solid, limiting Montreal's chances all game, and when push came to shove they flexed their muscle - but didn't cross the line.

Smart hockey like this will win a lot of games so it's something the team should remain focused on.

Roberto Luongo made 25 saves for his fifth straight win.

The Canucks were 0-for-2 on the power play, but were productive on both chances with a combined six shots on goal.

For the first time in eight years Vancouver didn't take a penalty, so naturally they were 100 per cent in that category. What a stat.
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