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Boost of Confidence

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks looked destined for failure in the first period against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. But like a good bottle of pinot noir, they got better as time went on. The marked improvement in the second and third periods led to a dominant 5-2 Canuck victory.

Let’s toast to that.

“We didn’t have our legs in the first,” said Daniel Sedin, who scored the game winner and added an insurance goal. “In the second we got going, and in the third I think we played a really good game.”

The first period was hard to swallow for Canucks fans. The Predators out-shot the Canucks 16-8, and grossly out-chanced them as well.

The 2-1 score that Nashville led by after the opening frame could have been a lot worse. Jason Arnott had enough chances that period to score a hat trick, but fortunately it just wasn’t his night.

Like the rest of his team, backup goalie Curtis Sanford didn’t have a great start to the game, either. Jay Ortmeyer – not exactly an offensive powerhouse – streaked wide down the right wing and blasted a puck past Sanford from a weak angle just three minutes in.

Sanford simply lost his positioning in the net, leaving a big target at the far side of the net.

But instead of dwelling on the bad goal and letting it get to him, Sanford started making some saves that even Roberto would be impressed by.

Sanford bounced back to make some timely stops, and kept the Canucks in the game by stopping 14 of the 16 shots in the first period. After that, he didn’t let a single puck get past him. It earned him his third victory of the season in as many starts – preserving his unbeaten record.

“Curtis kept us in the game [in the first period],” said Daniel Sedin. “From then on I think we took over the game.”

The Vancouver team that took to the ice in the second was completely different from the green and blue team of the first. The big difference was the defense. It was stingy, allowing only three shots, which Sanford took care of easily.

The power play also broke out of its slump in the second and third, going 2-for-3 on the night. It hadn’t produced a goal in the last three games, going 0-for-9. But Thursday, Taylor Pyatt got a power play goal in the second and Daniel Sedin scored another in the third.

“I don’t think we’ve been intense enough,” said Danny about the team’s recent power play struggles. But his goal with the extra man fixed that. “Tonight, Henrik won the faceoff, and Naslund shot the puck, which we need to do.”

As the clock ticked down, Vancouver’s confidence continued to grow. They took the lead and played tight defense, scoring a pair of insurance goals in the process.

“I think we feel pretty comfortable with a tie going into the third right now. Our goalies are playing great, and we know we’re going to create chances, so it’s a good feeling,” said Danny.

The victory puts the Canucks in sole possession of the Northwest Division, two points ahead of Minnesota. The way they’re playing right now, they should be able to keep that position.

“We don’t give up a lot of chances, and I think we frustrate teams that way which gives us scoring chances too,” said Danny.

They’ll certainly need that style of play on Saturday when The Crosby Show comes to town, as Sid the Kid makes his much-awaited Vancouver debut.

1st – career NHL loss for Dan Ellis, after seven wins

2 – goals where three Swedes factored (Naslund, H. Sedin, D. Sedin)

3 – penalties to each team over the course of the game

4 – points for Pyatt in his last three games

5 – hits for Matt Cooke to lead both teams

Got better and better as the game went on. 10 different Canucks generated points against the Predators Thursday night.

It was just the third time this season the Canucks have tallied five or more goals (6-2 win against Minnesota Nov. 16 and 5-2 win against Edmonton Oct. 12).

Didn’t have a strong first period, allowing 16 shots and a flurry of scoring chances. But the defense recovered marvelously, allowing just 12 shots over the next 40 minutes, and playing the stingy style that we’re used to seeing.

The checking line did a good job to shut down Dumont, Arnott, and Erat for most of the game.

Thursday’s game was the Canucks’ first road game this season that they didn’t give up a power play goal. As nice a stat as that is, it’s a bit of a misnomer because Nashville’s first goal was scored four seconds after Naslund exited the box.

There was no doubt about the power play’s effectiveness though, going 2-for-3 on the night.
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