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Going Fourth

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
After winning all three previous games against the Canucks, The Detroit Red Wings were looking to take the fourth and final game against Vancouver this season. But the Canucks sent a memo to the hockey maid and told her to take the day off – there would be no sweeping in GM Place Saturday night.

The Canucks knocked off the top-ranked team in the league, and at the same time picked up their season-high fourth straight win of the season. The Canucks hadn’t won four games in a row since March 15-21 of 2007.

“Obviously it’s good getting rewarded for our hard play, and again tonight we had a real solid effort from our whole group,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “I think our four lines have got specific roles, and they’re contributing. We’re getting some offense from our defense.”

The Canucks exploded for an offensive burst and even scored something called “insurance goals,” a term Canucks fans might have forgotten over the previous 12 games, spanning all the way back to January 23.

In that stretch, the Canucks played extremely tight games, with 10 of those 12 games being decided by just one goal, and seven being decided by a shootout or overtime.

It’s been a nail-biting stretch that probably prompted many fans to invite their cardiologists over to watch the game with them.

But there was little stress for fans in the third period of the Canucks’ 4-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday night, as the home team monopolized the play. It was the first three-goal victory since a 3-0 January 3 win over the New York Rangers.

The wide margin of victory came courtesy of Ryan Kesler, who notched both insurance goals in the third period.

The shut-down forward, who did an admirable job of stopping the Wings’ top line of Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Pavel Datsyuk, chipped in a pair of goals for the third time this season, securing the game.

“Right now I’m playing with some confidence,” said Kesler. “I know first and foremost my job’s to shut down the other team’s top offensive guys, and being able to score a couple is just a bonus.”

The highlight reels might make this game look like an individual effort by Kesler, but the game showed a well-oiled machine with all cylinders firing.

The game featured a solid 28 save effort from Roberto Luongo, a strong defensive night with all skaters playing well positionally, a pair of goals from defensemen, a pair of goals from the checking line, and sustained pressure from the other three lines. Not to mention a kill on a lengthy Detroit two-man advantage in the second period with the outcome still very much in doubt.

“We have four lines going,” said Kesler. “And we have most of our defense back, which is huge.”

It’s that type of effort that the captain wants to see from his squad from here on out. Markus Naslund noted that despite a win in their last game against Nashville, it wasn’t exactly a team effort, and it’s something he wanted changed. “We didn’t play well, but Louie stood on his head.”

Saturday night, he got what he was looking for. “Today we got a great team effort. I think that’s the way we have to win from now on, and hopefully we can keep the roll rolling.”


2 – five-hole goals by Kesler in the third period

5 – Canucks that registered four shots: Isbister, Naslund, Kesler, Pyatt, and Salo.

9 – games in the last 10 that the Canucks have picked up at least a point

11 – months since the Canucks enjoyed a four-game winning streak

23 – wins and zero losses for the Canucks when they hold the lead entering the third period

For the first time in four games against them this season, the Canucks outshot the Red Wings and got some results. The victory was also their first three-goal victory in nearly two months, courtesy of some offense from the defense, and Ryan Kesler.

Even with their injuries, the Red Wings still have a number of star players and the Canucks defense and checking line did a swell job to contain them and hold them to a single goal.

The Canucks took a lot of penalties, but made up for it with their shorthanded play. They killed 6-of-7 penalties, including a 5-on-3 that lasted for one minute.

The Canucks didn’t have nearly as many power plays as the Wings, but went 1-for-3. The power play goal by Salo is what put the Canucks ahead 2-1 in the second period and planted them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
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