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Best of the Best: March

by Brady Trettenero / Vancouver Canucks
Radim Vrbata went on a tear, while Eddie Lack was sensational in goal helping the Canucks post a 10-4-2 record in the month of March. From a Trevor Linden and Jim Benning high-five celebration to a spirited Dan Hamhuis fight, here is the Best of the Best from the month of March.


BEST GOAL

Vrbata Sneakily Tucks One Past Sharks’ Niemi (03/07/15)

After suffering two straight losses, things weren’t looking too good for the Canucks in the beginning of March. The team headed to San Jose in hopes of breaking out of their mini-slump and getting back on track. After San Jose struck twice in the first period, it looked like the Canucks would be heading into the intermission trailing by two. Enter Radim Vrbata. With time winding down in the frame, Vrbata entered the Sharks zone and tried to dangle his way through Sharks’ defender Bent Burns. While he had the puck stripped away from him, Bonino was able to recover the puck and send a pass back to Vrbata. The 33-year-old cut outside towards the net, but didn’t appear to have any space to cut back in. Instead, Vrbata opted to go around the net. Actually, that’s what netminder Anti Niemi thought. Instead of going full circle, Vrbata cut back the way he came, tucking the puck into an empty cage with 39 seconds remaining. It was his team-leading 24th goal of the season and allowed the Canucks to claw their way back into the game. Vrbata would later net another goal in the third period to give the Canucks a 3-2 win.

BEST ASSIST

Vrbata Feathers Slick Bouncing Pass to Bonino vs. Kings (03/21/15)

When it came down to an-all important division matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks knew they were going to need their best players to be their best players. Radim Vrbata, who was on a tear during all of March, helped Vancouver secure two much-needed points against a desperate Kings squad. After Marian Gaborik struck first on a power play, Nick Bonino got the Canucks on the board before the period expired. The play started at the Canucks’ blueline when veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa fired a long stretch pass to Vrbata at the Kings blueline. Vrbata was immediately pressured by Kings’ defenseman Brayden McNabb, but that didn’t stop the former Coyote. Vrbata was able to spot Bonino driving to the slot and managed to hook him up with a sweet bouncing pass. Bonino took the pass off the hop and put the puck past goaltender Jonathan Quick and under the crossbar to even the score. It was another huge play from Vrbata, who would later go on to score the game-winning goal in the final period.

BEST SAVE

Lack Robs Ducks’ Perry with Outstretched Pad (03/09/15)

After defeating the San Jose Sharks in their previous game, the Canucks were looking to take down another Pacific Division rival in their next outing. With Ryan Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks in town, goaltender Eddie Lack knew he would need to be on top of his game if Vancouver was hoping to come away with two points. After Bo Horvat opened the scoring in the first period, the Ducks came charging back in hopes of netting the equalizer. The Pacific Division leaders outshot Vancouver 20-10 through the first two periods, but Lack was equal to the task. One of his best saves came early in the second period off elite goal-scorer Cory Perry. With the Canucks on the penalty kill, the Ducks went to work with their lethal power play. Anaheim began to work their cycle game, eventually sending the puck to François Beauchemin at the point. The defenseman sent a cross-ice pass to his partner James Wisniewski, who immediately found Perry wide open in the slot for a tap-in play. Something got in the way of Perry’s shot, though. Just as he was going to tap the puck into the empty goal cage, Lack reached out and robbed him with the left pad, keeping the Ducks off the scoreboard. Perry, who has 32 goals on the season, held his head upwards in disbelief after the save. Although the Canucks were outshot 30-16 on the evening, the strong play of Lack allowed them to pull away with a crucial 2-1 win. The 27-year-old goaltender went 9-3-2 in the month of March, helping Vancouver hold onto their playoff spot in the Pacific Division.

BEST FIGHT

Hamhuis Takes on Flyers’ Voracek in Spirited Tussle (03/17/15)

It was an emotional night in mid-March when the Canucks took on the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Arena. Pat Quinn Way was unveiled and there was a pre-game ceremony honouring the former coach. Vancouver, who was coming off a spirited win over Toronto, was looking to carry the emotion into a match against the struggling Flyers. After a scoreless first period in which both teams combined for just 17 shots, defenseman Dan Hamhuis brought some passion into the game. After Hamhuis and Flyers’ forward Jakub Voracek were mixing it up, they decided to engage in a round of fisticuffs at center ice. While the Flyers’ leading scorer came out guns blazing, Hamhuis was able to lay a couple good blows towards the end of the fight. The fans rose to their feet and both benches gave their respective players a loud round of stick taps. While Philadelphia would score a goal less than a minute later, the Canucks would go on to score four unanswered goals to defeat the Flyers for their fourth win in five games. This wasn’t the only time this season Hamhuis had engaged in a round of fisticuffs with one of his opponent’s top players. The 32-year-old previously dropped the gloves with fellow BC native Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers in October.

BEST CELEBRATION

Linden and Benning Hive Five after Vrbata’s Game-Tying Goal vs. Stars (03/28/15)

After dropping a 4-1 decision to the Colorado Avalanche, the Canucks were in desperate need of points as they took on Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Stars at Rogers Arena. After Vancouver fell behind 3-2 late in the game, Stars’ elite forward Tyler Seguin was handed a two-minute penalty for slashing. With the Canucks badly needing a goal, the Sedin twins and Radim Vrbata went to work with the man advantage. Vrbata sent a pass from behind the net to Daniel in the slot, but he was robbed by Lehtonen. Although Daniel was knocked down by Vernon Fiddler, he still managed to fire the rebound on net. Lehtonen turned that away too, but after a Nick Bonino follow-up attempt led to an even bigger rebound, Vrbata hopped on the loose puck. The 33-year-old carried the puck towards the circle, before turning around and firing it through a stream of bodies and past Lehtonen. Rogers Arena went nuts, while the camera later panned to GM Jim Benning and President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden engaging in a spirited high-five celebration. While Vancouver would fall in overtime, that game-tying goal with under two minutes to go in regulation earned the Canucks a huge point and could end up being the goal that helped the team earn a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

BEST SHOOTOUT GOAL

Vrbata Goes to the Backhand and Beats Preds’ Rinne (03/31/15)

After grabbing two crucial points against the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks had another challenge awaiting them the following night in Nashville. After a frantic three periods in which each team potted four goals, the game eventually headed to the all-important shootout. Once Nick Bonino deked and scored on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, Radim Vrbata had a chance to win the game for the Canucks. The sniper skated in on Rinne before faking the shot, deking to the backhand and putting the puck over the elite goaltender’s outstretched pad. It was just another clutch performance from Vrbata, who put the team on his back in the month of March, recording nine goals, 18 points, three game-winners, two shootout goals, seven multi-point games and a whopping 66 shots on goal. Vancouver’s win over Nashville was their fourth straight on the road and their seventh win in 10 games. Vrbata’s shootout winner helped the Canucks pick up two more points and helped them maintain their lead over the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division.

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