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Offensive Intensive

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
Desperate to break a four-game losing streak that had seen them fall out of a playoff spot, the Canucks erupted for one of their biggest offensive nights of the season, with six different Canucks lighting the lamp.

During their previous game losing streak, Vancouver had managed to score just six goals over the entire four-game span. But they scored that many all in one night’s work against Nashville in GM Place Thursday night, downing their Western Conference rivals 6-2.

“We started with a lot of urgency, and urgency was warranted and needed,” said Coach Alain Vigneault. “It was a very important game for us and our guys did what they’ve done throughout the year: they got ready to play hard.”

At stake was the eighth and final playoff spot. Though they are now both tied with 76 points, the Canucks were able to snatch that place from the Predators, thanks to a game in hand.

It didn’t take long for the Canucks to get the offensive party started. 37 seconds into the game, Alex Burrows notched his team-leading third short-handed goal of the season. Alex Edler followed up with a power-play goal about three-and-a-half minutes after that.

Then Matt Pettinger promptly scored a milestone goal, and it was special for two reasons. It was his first as a Vancouver Canuck, and his 100th career NHL point. The Canucks had three goals on the board and had chased Nashville goalie Dan Ellis all in the space of 6:09. Compared to scoring just twice in their previous two games, or 120:00, it was a successful start.

 Kevin Bieksa rounded out the first period scoring, marking the second time this season the Canucks have scored four goals in the first period – the other coming in a 6-2 win against Minnesota on November 16, 2007. Thursday against Nashville, they held a 4-2 lead going into the first intermission, and it would only grow from there.

The highlight of the night was scored by Mason Raymond in the second period, who demonstrated his speed and soft hands, much to the dismay of Chris Mason and the Predators. After flying around a defender and trying for the five-hole, he collected his rebound in order to take the puck around the net. He then waited patiently before roofing it over the downed goaltender.

The goal came after Raymond had sat out as a healthy scratch in Vancouver’s Tuesday night game against Colorado. “Mason, as you can all see, is a highly skilled young player that’s really coming into his own,” said Vigneault. “He played an excellent game for us. We needed that from him.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Shannon continued his hot streak, scoring his second power play goal in as many games. He now has nine points in his last ten.

“The twins and Ryan Shannon on the power play played really well,” said Vigneault. Shannon and both twins all logged 6:19 seconds each working with the man advantage. The Canucks had 8:51 of power play time all game, leaving just 2:32 that Shannon and the twins weren’t working the coveted shift.

The Sedins also played very well even strength, with Daniel doing everything but putting the puck in the net. He finished with eight shots, half of which were quality chances from his favourite spot in the slot. He did, however, manage to pick up three assists to his brother’s one, which gave him a share of the team’s scoring lead with 65 points apiece, tied with Hank.

 “We kept going the whole game and it was nice to see everyone chip in,” said Daniel Sedin.

Sami Salo was also a big presence on the scoresheet, notching three assists. This is the third time in his career he has notched three assists in a single game, and the sixth time he has notched three points.

While many players set some impressive individual marks, perhaps what was most encouraging was the way the Canucks played as a team. All but three Canuck skaters registered a shot for a total of 44, their third highest shot total all season. The 24 shots they enjoyed in the first period approached their franchise record of 28 shots in a period, set all the way back in 1991.

Even better, nine different players got their numbers onto the scoresheet, an impressive feat for a team that hears more criticism than it deserves about its secondary scoring.

“It was a great team effort,” said Daniel Sedin.

The way they looked tonight, you might want to prepare for 15 more of those down the stretch.

3 – shorthanded goals on the season for Burrows this season

12 – shots by the Sedins combined, eight for Danny and four for Hank

24 – shots in the first period for the Canucks

79 – penalty minutes assessed at 19:06 of the third period

82 – Henrik’s faceoff win percentage against Nashville, going 14-for-16

The Canucks didn’t waste any time getting their offense going, scoring four times in the opening frame. Despite only scoring another two markers after that, the Canucks kept the pressure consistent and refused to let Nashville back into the game after the first period.

In this game, the strategy seemed to be “the best defense is a good offense.” The Canucks spent so much time pressuring the Predators and didn’t allow their opponents many quality chances, especially after period one.

A power play that was foundering before Tuesday seems to have been resurrected. The Canucks completed 40% of their chances going 2-for-5, but the way their setup was working they could have notched two more. The lone blemish on the power play was a short-handed goal for Nashville early in the first.

It was a perfect shut down for the penalty kill, even though the Canucks spent 20% of the game, or 12 minutes, down a player. They escaped with a 6-for-6 kill rate.
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