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Californian conquest

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
When the Vancouver Canucks reflect on this season once its over, hopefully sometime in June, they will most likely regard Friday's freak show as their best/worst game of the year.

It was good for very obvious reasons: the Canucks fought back from an early two-goal deficit, they really bent but didn't break when they had the lead in the second period and they displayed intense resiliency in escaping Anaheim with a 7-6 shootout win.

The game was bad for reasons just as evident though: Vancouver blew a three goal lead in a stretch of only 1:40 late in the second, allowed Anaheim to score in the last minute of play in the third to force extra time and took nine penalties overall.

Fortunately for Vancouver, this Halloween freight fest won't be remembered for the bad, but instead the good and the Canucks are now on a two-game winning streak having swept through California with perfection.

Dissecting how they managed to shoot down the Ducks for their second straight win is about as hard as locking your doors, closing your blinds and not handing out candy on the spookiest night of the year.

Getting egged is never fun, so let's start from the beginning.

Two power play goals had Anaheim in front by a pair 12 minutes into the first, that's when Steve Bernier scored for the third time this season. His goal came just 19 seconds after the Ducks netted their second goal, looking back we can file the quick score as obvious foreshadowing.

Ryan Kesler clamped things at 2-2 just under eight minutes into the second and that's really when the fun began. One, two, three, that's how fast the Canucks took a 5-2 stranglehold on the Ducks.

First, with Sami Salo serving a double minor for high sticking George Parros to the face (don't worry, this Ron Jeremy mustache is fine), Alex Burrows scored his fifth career shorthanded goal.

Then Salo set up Mattias Ohlund for an easy goal, his second of the season, Kevin Bieksa got in on the action with his second goal just 41 seconds later. Four goals in a span of 7:22 and Vancouver was laughing its way to a big win over red-hot Anaheim, a team that had won five straight and six of seven coming in.

Not so fast.

One, two, three goals in 1:40 for the Ducks and it was a 5-5 game heading into the second intermission. The grey hairs were sprouting at an alarming rate on coach Alain Vigneault's head.

"I think we played pretty well but for those three minutes in the second period we couldn't get anything going, they were really shooting a lot of pucks on Louie and getting a lot of traffic and that's how they tied it up," assessed Burrows, who finished with two points.

Bernier pulled one goal closer to his first career hat-trick midway through the third, his second score of the game gave Vancouver a little breathing room as they looked to simply vanish out of Anaheim with a 6-5 win.

Again, not so fast.

Corey Perry beat Roberto Luongo with 57 seconds remaining in the game to force overtime and eventually a shootout.

That's where Ohlund, the thirteenth Vancouver shooter, stepped up and made Jonas Hiller wish he'd stayed on the bench. (Oh, right, Hiller came in for Giguere in the second, the switch was lost in all the scoring.)

Long story short, Canucks win a thriller.

"I was actually upset they didn't put me out there earlier," joked Ohlund, the shootout king. "It was a nice win for us. It was a sloppy, sloppy game I thought but it's two points and we'll take the good things away from it.

"We've got to look at the tape obviously tomorrow because there are a few things defensively that we need to do a lot better job at. But I mean it's two points and that's huge in the standings at the moment."

Huge is right, the win thrusts Vancouver into within a point of the division lead with a six-game home stand, starting Sunday versus Detroit, on the horizon.

"I think our last four games, even when we lost at home against Boston, have been pretty good," added Ohlund. "I think we're playing consistently good and this is something we have to build on."

It was just a coincidence that Ohlund scored the winner as the thirteenth Vancouver shooter and that the teams combined for 13 goals, but this game overall was superbly suited to be played on Halloween as it was downright scary.

There's simply no other way to catalog a game where the scoreboard almost needed to be replaced because the old one couldn't count quick enough.

"Yeah that was a weird game, but sometimes on the road you've got to adjust," stated Bernier, fresh off his first two goal game as a Canuck.

"It's never going to be the same game out there and I think tonight we adjusted pretty well. We took a lot of penalties though, that's maybe something we need to improve on, but we won the two points so it's hard to say anything bad about the game."

When the Canucks reflect on this season once its over, their 7-6 shootout win over Anaheim will surely be remembered as their best/worst game of the year.

It provided the sugar highs and lows to label it as such, and if it leads to a successful home stand and ultimately a prosperous first half of the season, Friday's freak show will become legendary on the West Coast.

Points for the Sedins

1 First career shootout goal for Mattias Ohlund

9 – Penalties taken by Vancouver

– Combined shooters in the shootout

  38 – Goals for the Canucks this season through 11 games, good for fourth overall

  Fantastic, incredible, whimsical, take your pick.

The Canucks were flying offensively against the Ducks, it was impressive to see them fight back from a two goal deficit and that four goal second period was shocking.

It was a little sad that 11 Canucks failed to score in the shootout before Ohlund won it, but not everyone is good in that one-on-one situation.

Twenty-four hours after coming together to shutout Los Angeles, Vancouver's defence crumbled to pieces. The Canucks couldn't stay out of the box so that didn't help, but the Ducks were given far too much time and space to make things happen offensively.

Roberto Luongo was solid in net at times and very shaky at others, but he came to life in the shootout as he only allowed one goal.

Vancouver's march to the penalty box is justifiable if there was a tub of candy there for them, unfortunately there wasn't. The Canucks simply played very undisiplined hockey and they're lucky it didn't cost them in the end.

Anaheim was 3-for-9 on the power play, while Vancouver converted two of their five chances.

Overall, the Canucks have been a much improved bunch on special teams and they'll need to carry that over into their upcoming six game home stand.
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