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Battle of the brutes

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
In a battle of the two most penalized teams in the NHL, it’s no surprise that special teams made the difference.

It was last penalty loses, in a sense.

The Vancouver Canucks were undisciplined, but they weren’t nearly as bad as the Anaheim Ducks in a heated 4-3 Canucks win.

Led by seven penalty minutes from Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks took nine penalties on the night, compared to only five by the Canucks.

Fifty-four PIMs were dished out between the two teams in a game that emulated playoff hockey to a tee.

The rough stuff started early with a slew of first period minors; a Shane O’Brien quagmire led to the game’s opening goal, courtesy of the Ducks.

Then with Steve Montador in the box, Vancouver evened the score.

That sparked a one-sided bout between George Parros and Darcy Hordichuk, Parros got the best of him but he was assessed a double minor for it.

That led to another power play goal for the Canucks, which had the Ducks seeing red.

Travis Moen and Mike Brown (sporting #15 for the first time) fought while the second period was still young; the teams exchanged more scrappy penalties from then on until Ryan Kesler and Getzlaf dropped the mitts midway through the third.

“Since the first shift of the game I think the emotions were high and they were taking cheap shots on us and we weren’t backing down, so it was good to see out there,” said Kesler, who collected his 100th NHL point with a first period goal.

Emotions ran high all night long, much the same way they did when Vancouver marched into Anaheim on Halloween night and outlasted the Ducks 7-6 in a shootout.

Only fifty penalty minutes were handed out that night.

“They always play that way, they try to be physical and try to scare players or just intimidate other teams, but we’re not a group that’s going to back down,” said Alex Burrows, who battled hard with Corey Perry right from puck drop.

Vancouver’s checking line of Burrows, Kesler and Steve Bernier got under the skin of Anaheim’s big three – Getlzaf, Perry and Bobby Ryan, so much so that Burrows and Perry exchanged holiday baking tips between benches while taking a breather.

That volcano erupted once the final horn went with Perry finally throwing down his gloves and challenging Burrows. The feisty Canuck was ready to waltz, but the officials would have none of it.

“It’s on our ice, we’re our building and if he wants to call me out I’m going to show up and go right at him,” said Burrows.

“I asked him earlier and he didn’t want to go so maybe next game.”

Although this sounds like a UFC Pay-Per-View extravaganza, there was in fact a hockey game played.

Mason Raymond scored a goal and added an assist, while Daniel Sedin continued his December to remember with another two-goal outing.

He scored the game-winner six minutes into the third on a breakaway caused by a Brett Festerling turnover.

The Anaheim blueliner bobbled the puck away at centre ice before Danny skated in faster than a reindeer with a tailwind. With two Ducks in full flight behind him, he broke the cookie jar with a snap shot top shelf.

Daniel is now tied for the league-lead with five game-winning goals and he has 19 points since Roberto Luongo went down in Pittsburgh on Nov. 22.

“I think five-on-five, that line has elevated its game,” said coach Alain Vigneault of Vancouver’s top unit that currently consists of the Sedins and Jannik Hansen.

“They need to continue to do that because we’re like all the teams right now, especially in our conference, you need your top players to play to their level and with our top player Roberto being out, those guys have got to step up and assume more in the dressing room and on the ice.

“I think Danny has definitely done that for us.”

Raymond’s second multi-point game of the season gives him six career points against the Ducks, the most of any team he’s faced since becoming a regular with the Canucks.

Just over a year ago Raymond torched Anaheim for his first career goal before setting up Jason Jaffray’s first NHL tally, so facing the Ducks is always special.

That doesn’t mean he can explain his puck luck against them.

“I can’t put my finger on anything, I don’t really know,” laughed Raymond.

“I don’t prepare any different than I would any other game, it just seems that these are the games that it happens I guess.”

The Canucks were quick to bolt from their dressing room after the win with a flight to San Jose in their immediate future.

Vancouver doesn’t have any time to savor this win with a game against the league-leading San Jose Sharks Tuesday night.

“We’re playing against the best in the NHL tomorrow night, without a doubt,” smiled Vigneault.

“Just by looking at their record (26-4-3), they’re on fire, so I think our guys should look forward to it and it should be a good game.”

The Canucks are 4-1-0 in the second of back-to-back outings.

1 – Point this season for Rob Davison, he assisted on Vancouver's third goal

2 – Power play goals for the Canucks

– Points for Mason Raymond, his second multi-point game of the season

5 – Game-winning goals for Daniel Sedin, he had two scores on the night

24 – Saves by Curtis Sanford in his third straight start and second win in three games

100 – Career points for Ryan Kesler, he scored Vancouver's second goal

Something about Anaheim brings Vancouver's offence to life.

Having already scorched the Ducks for six goals on Halloween night, the Canucks took it to them again with another four in this game.

All four lines contributed either on the scoresheet or with phyiscal play; this was a total team effort.

The Canucks were outshot 27-26.

If there is a black mark on this win, it's that Vancouver blew a three goal lead as Anaheim was running amuck in the Canucks zone for the third period.

It would be nice to say Vancouver's blueliners shut down Anaheim's offence down the stretch to save the win, but the Ducks simply couldn't connect on their chances - and they had tons of them.

Curtis Sanford played well making 24 stops in his third consecutive start.

Vancouver's power play wasn't on the ball against Chicago and the Canucks lost. It connected twice versus Anaheim and Vancouver won.

It's no secret at this point that success on the power play leads to victories; Vancouver's two early goals on the man advantage set the tone for this important home win.

As always, there is room for improvement with the Canucks finishing 2-for-9 overall on the power play.

The Ducks were 2-for-5.
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