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Men on a mission

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
For the second time in three games Daniel and Henrik Sedin tore up the opposition en route to an important Canucks win.

The twin terrors stockpiled two goals and a pair of assists to help Vancouver take down Colorado 4-1; it was just another one of those games where they couldn’t be wrangled – stop me if you’re read this game recap before.

What makes this story so special is that for once the efforts of the Sedins were matched, and not just by one player, but a trio of Canucks who were clearly on a mission on this night.

Jason LaBarbera, Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin all came into this tilt with something to prove and each left with their head held a little higher.

For LaBarbera the goal was simple, in his first start in 42 days he simply wanted to walk away a winner.

LaBarbera picked up points in four straight starts while filling in for an injured Roberto Luongo to start 2009, but then dropped three straight contests, including a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 13.

Against the Avalanche Barbs didn’t miss a beat stopping 22 shots, eight of which came in the first period with the Canucks playing about as well as they did Thursday night in St. Louis.

Anyone who was nibbling away at their fingernails worrying that LaBarbera would be unable to find his form had their fears calmed early when the netminder made a show stopping glove save on Cody McLeod less than four minutes in.

On the power play McLeod was allowed to take a pass square in front of the Vancouver goal, he one-timed a bullet towards LaBarbera that looked hazardous, but was swiped away with Barbs’ big mitt – it was glovely to say the least.

“Like Lui he saved us in the first period, he kept us in the game and that’s what you want from the goalie,” said Henrik Sedin, who matched a career-high with his 18th goal of the season.

“The guys did a great job in front of me,” responded LaBarbera, who is now 3-3-2 as a Canuck.

“Other than the first period it was a pretty easy night for me, I’ve been working hard on my game the last little while and it was just nice to get in there and contribute finally.

“Right when I got here I played a lot and then I went a long stretch without playing so it’s nice to finally contribute a little bit.”

Heading into this game Pavol Demitra also wanted to contribute, but some games just don’t go his way. Theoretically, as long as the sniper played well, it didn’t matter if he picked up any points.

That all changed when he missed a penalty shot midway through the second period; like Bruce Banner mutating into the Hulk, Demitra became possessed as he was hell-bent on making up for his mishap.

Here’s a headline you can Twitter: Demitra plays better mad. He finished the game with a goal and an assist and was named the game’s second star.

“In St. Louis we didn’t have a strong game but we responded well tonight and I think our line played great for 60 minutes,” said Demitra, one third of the RPM line that had five points on the night.

“We’ve got a good line and not every night it’s going to go our way, but we just have to get ready for every night and just play great for the rest of the season and get ready for playoffs.”

If Demitra and Mats Sundin can keep the chemistry they had in this game bubbling, the RPM line should be turning heads from here on out, especially if Sundin can continue putting up points on the road.

Only four of Sundin’s 21 points were collected away from GM Place coming into this game, so his mission has been to contribute on the road and he did in Colorado with two assists.

After a hectic three games in four nights, the Canucks now have a day off as the team travels to Chicago for a possible first round playoff preview against the Blackhawks.

Vancouver is within two points of Chicago and one of Calgary for the Northwest Division lead so it’s all hands on deck for the Canucks in what will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the season.

“We’re trying to get into the playoffs, that’s our main goal, and right now we’re looking at teams ahead of us and right now Chicago is one of them,” said Henrik.

“It’s going to be another big game, but every game coming up right now is going to be huge. We’re going to take it as a playoff game and we’ve got to play like it.”

Keep your eye on Demitra against the Blackhawks, his goal against Colorado was the 299th of his career and he said he’ll get his 300th on this road trip.

“Oh definitely, oh yeah, probably next game,” he smiled.

299 – Career goals for Pavol Demitra

22 – Saves for Jason LaBarbera

4 Points for the Sedins (2-2-4)

5 – Points for the RPM line (1-4-5)

2-2-0 Vancouver's record in this six-game road trip

The Sedins got the party started, but Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin carried the load late and it made the difference.

Vancouver's secondary scoring has been an issue for a while so hopefully it doesn't plague the Canucks down the stretch.

Vancouver outshot Colorado 34-23.

The defence held Colorado's sharp shooters to only 23 shots, a big win considering the Avs were playing with nothing to lose.

Jason LaBarbera was truly sensational between the pipes in relief of Roberto Luongo; it was Barbs' first start since Feb. 13.

Vancouver seems to play well on special teams every other game and in keeping with that, they were good on this night.

The Canucks finished 1-for-5 on the power play with 10 shots and the visitors held the Avalanche to 0-for-4 on the the man advantage.
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