It was a rough and tumble affair as the Canucks thumped the Predators 3-1 in the country music capital of the world; led by a physical 17 hit effort, Vancouver punished Nashville, literally, on route to a gritty win.
It all started when Rob Davison, who was making his first appearance in seven games, rocked Scott Nichol to his core with a bone-jarring hit in front of the Vancouver bench.
Nichol had his head down and Davison made him pay like an angry bookie, the first of four scrums on the night ensued following the collision and Jason Jaffray took the reigns and traded holiday baking tips with Rich Peverley.
All this mayhem came with just under five minutes to play in the opening period with the score locked at 1-1. From that point on it was evident Vancouver was the hungrier team and if it came right down to it, they’d rip each Nashville player limb from limb to get the win.
“It got interesting a couple times,” said Curtis Sanford, who was back in net for the Canucks stopping 20 shots for his fourth win of the season.
“Guys were playing with emotion, we knew we needed these two points really badly and we battled hard and so did they.”
The physicality of this game was alive and well in the second period as Alex Burrows woke J.P. Dumont from a skating coma with a hit at mid ice five minutes into the frame.
This led to more fisticuffs with Shane O’Brien and Jason Arnott each receiving 10 minute misconducts; Arnott also had an instigating minor and fighting major tacked on to his sentence.
With Arnott in the box, the Canucks were faced with the prospect of a seven-minute power play and a chance to take the lead and wrap this game up before the middle period was over.
That was the intent, the result was much different and it ensured more turbulent play would be needed on Vancouver’s part to steal this win in the final frame.
During what seemed like the longest man advantage in the history of hockey, the Canucks had chances to score, most notably Kyle Wellwood who had a sure goal blocked by Greg Zanon to the left of the net, yet they couldn’t take the lead.
“Once we got set up I think we were fine,” said Daniel Sedin
. “I think we were creating chances, but we had a few chances back door that we didn’t capitalize on.”
This could have easily been the story of the game had Alex Edler not put home a glorious no-look pass from Daniel Sedin
just 24 seconds into the third on a four-on-three power play. Luckily he did and the Canucks fought their way to the win.
No big hits were needed as the clock ticked down, just solid defensive play and timely goaltending from Sanford as he stopped 10 shots in the third period.
The Canucks got to the body early and beat the Predators at their own game and because of it they’ve got their second in three games and now have points in three straight.
“It was kind of strange game that way, there wasn’t a whole lot of fights but there were a lot of scrums, physical play and big hits,” said Kevin Bieksa
, the deliverer of three hits on the night.
“Rob Davison comes into the line-up and delivers a huge hit to get the guys going and this game was a lot of fun to play in and everybody showed up tonight.”
Vancouver now has three days to rest up before finishing its season-high seven-game road trip this Saturday in Edmonton, suffice to say the Canucks are looking forward to returning home for the first time in nearly two weeks.
“We’ve been away for a while and I know guys are excited to get back to their families and everything, but it was great to see us buckle down for the last sixty minutes of this part of the trip,” said Sanford.
“It’s nice to go home after one of the last games of a subpar road trip for us,” added Bieksa.
“We played a great teammate game tonight, we couldn’t get one there on the seven minute power play but we stuck with it and we got one off the bat in the third and we held onto it.”
Almost as surprising as how high the emotions were in this non-divisional game was the fact that Vancouver’s top dog, the bruiser, the jawbreaker, the man known as Darcy Hordichuk, wasn’t involved in any of it.
Playing in Nashville for the first time since leaving the Predators this off-season, the Great Hordini had a few words for his former teammates during one pass by their bench, but other than that he wasn’t as feisty as anticipated.
The Canucks were, thankfully, and they now have a chance to end this grueling road trip with a .500 record. Vancouver is currently sporting a 2-3-1 record since leaving the comfy confines of GM Place on Nov. 28.
“We were coming in tonight two games below .500 on his trip and to get to .500 we knew we had to win tonight,” Sanford said.
“It’s a big step for us, but we’ve still got another huge game to end this road trip on Saturday.”