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Penalty Night in St. Louis

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
The St. Louis Blues got a powerplay goal from Erik Johnson and a 4-on-4 marker from Paul Kariya as they held off the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 Friday night at the Scottrade Center.

In a game that featured the star power of a resurgent Markus Naslund and a snake-bitten Doug Weight, it was referees Dean Morton and Justin St. Pierre who oddly stole the show.

In the first two periods, 14 minor penalties were called by Morton and St. Pierre. As the penalty killers wore out their blades, the game inevitably dragged on with all the flow of a clogged sink.

But in the third period, it was anything goes. Both referees tucked their whistles away, leading to the best stretch of hockey fans saw all night.

Canucks radio play-by-play man John Shorthouse, who called the officiating “over the top,” was baffled by the inconsistency.

“Did the game change that much? You had [14] powerplays through the first 40 minutes and not one call in the third? I mean, set a standard, this is why players get confused. The standard was very tight in the first two periods, it was nonexistent in the third.”

 Commentator Blake Price echoed Shorthouse’s sentiments and described the game as being “really tough to watch.”

The 14 powerplays were the second-most in any Canucks games so far this season. During a 4-1 win over Columbus on October 21st, Vancouver was involved in a 16-powerplay affair. But in that game, four of the powerplays came in the third period and the penalties, in general, were distributed more evenly throughout the night.

That was certainly not the case on Friday.

Twelve of the minors were called in the game’s opening 30 minutes. The longest stretch without a penalty during that span was five minutes and fifty-one seconds.

While neither club had a decided advantage, with St. Louis ending up with eight powerplays and Vancouver six, the end result was a special teams showdown. The Blues came out on top.

 “Our penalty kill and goaltending have been stellar this year, to say the least,” said Weight. “It’s been great. It’s carried our team and, you know, you feed from that.”

St. Louis got on the board late in the first when Kariya casually floated a wrist-shot at the Vancouver net. The puck found its way through traffic and beat Luongo clean to give the Blues the 1-0 lead.

Johnson tallied early in the second, after Matt Cooke had been sent off for tripping. The young St. Louis defenseman took a pretty saucer pass from Weight and blasted it over Luongo’s blocker to give St. Louis all the scoring it would need.

After former Canuck Martin Rucinsky made it 3-0 four minutes into the third, Ryan Kesler answered for Vancouver 45 seconds later, firing a one-timer of his own past Blues goaltender Hannu Toivonen.

It was as close as Vancouver would come on this night.  

5 – Hits for Matt Cooke to lead the team.

6 – Shots on goal for Markus Naslund, who saw his four-game goal-scoring streak come to an end.

17 – Minutes of ice-time for Sami Salo in his return to the lineup.

61 – Percent of the faceoffs Ryan Kesler took, he won. Kesler’s drawing at a 68 percent clip over the last three games.

Daniel, Henrik and Naslund were the best line on the ice for either club and had several strong shifts.

Kesler, Pyatt, and Isbister generated Vancouver’s only goal. But the Canucks got very little from their other two lines.

Aside from late in the third, when Luongo was left to fend for himself as his team tried to rally, the defense had a decent night. St. Louis registered 29 shots but few were of the grade-A variety.

Alex Edler was particularly strong, logging nearly 25 minutes of ice-time.

The powerplay let Vancouver down, as the Canucks failed to score on a couple of 5-on-3’s, including a 41-second two-man advantage in the first period.

The penalty kill gave up the eventual game-winner and has only had a clean sheet in 6 of Vancouver’s 22 games.
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