Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, and the Vancouver Canucks had it Thursday night in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.
The Canucks, playing their third of 11 back-to-back games this season, captured their second straight victory and it was thanks to the patience of Curtis Sanford and Pavol Demitra.
With Vancouver and Minnesota tied 2-2 midway through the third period, Daniel and Henrik Sedin
went to work with Demitra in the Wild zone, looking for the go-ahead goal.
Henrik got the puck to Demitra who was posted to the right of Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom. He took the pass and held onto the puck not wanting to rush the play.
Demitra had already scored from roughly the same spot earlier in the game, so it was another battle of chicken between he and Backstrom.
The Vancouver forward, who had five points in his last three games coming in, shuffled the puck with his stick as the play developed.
Backstrom had had enough and he committed to the side of the net, that’s when Demitra slyly hit Daniel Sedin
, who was left untouched in front of the Minnesota net, with a hard pass.
Danny easily rang up his eighth goal of the season, the eventual game-winner, on a play where Demitra displayed veteran poise and savvy in not rushing a shot, instead letting things unfold.
That line had been accused of maybe not shooting enough in waiting for the perfect plays to come, but there was no faulting them on this play.
“We are always waiting for the right chance and it came tonight, we scored a big goal and it’s a great feeling,” said Demitra, a former Wild forward playing his first game back in Minnesota.
Forbearance was the theme of this game from the outset and Sanford also displayed it in a big way.
Making just his second start of the season, and first in 34 days, Sanford sat back all night and let the Wild come to him.
For a goaltender who sees the ice almost as much as the coaching staff, Sanford should be applauded for his calm play. Especially since butterflies had been attacking his insides all night.
“I had them today, but you just take a deep breath and relax and just try to let the puck come to you,” said Sanford.
“There are butterflies and nerves every game, I think it’s just part of being ready, it lets you know that you’re ready.”
The Sandman was ready for what the Wild threw his way as he recorded 28 saves in stopping 14 different Minnesota shooters. The only player to beat him was Mikko Koivu.
The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu got the best of Sanford twice; he opened the scoring with a goal that the Vancouver netminder wanted back.
“That first goal kind of armpitted me,” said Sanford, “but it was good to battle back and get a big win.”
The Sandman stood tall during his first win of the season, a difficult task considering he didn’t know when his next start would come and with his last outing having been less than memorable.
“I just waited patiently and worked hard in practice and just learning from Roberto, now I just have to learn how to get shutouts.”
Goals by Steve Bernier and Demitra set the stage for the third period rally by the Canucks and the significance of the comeback win is big.
First place in the Northwest Division was on the line with Minnesota trailing Vancouver by only a point heading in, the Canucks now have a three-point cushion.
The Canucks improve their divisional record to 5-0-1, which could play role come April.
Even if Vancouver falls to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the team will still come away with at least five points from this four-game road trip, a sure shot of confidence with the lethal Detroit Red Wings at GM Place next Monday.
“Lately we’ve been playing very good, we’ve been winning and sometimes it’s not about how many goals you score, but it’s what the score is at the end of the game,” said Bernier.
“For sure it’s good to score, but it’s way better to see the two points at the end of the night.”
“This is huge for us,” added Demitra. “Every time you are on a road trip two points is important and we just try to grab as many points as we can get.”
Sanford backstopped the Canucks to a win almost a year to the day he last beat the Wild, while Demitra scored and collected an assist in his first game back in Minnesota.
Two great games from two great Canucks and all it took was a little patience.