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Role reversal

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
If you did a double take trying to figure out just which Sedin it was that lit the lamp in overtime against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, you’re certainly not alone.

For the past eight seasons Daniel Sedin has been the twin with the golden touch, he’s hit the 20-goal mark five times and twice surpassed the 30-goal plateau, including this season.

To summarize: when the Canucks have needed a Sedin to step up and score in the past, Daniel has been the man to do it, typically with Henrik playing second fiddle as the set-up man.

The twins tried a little role reversal on this night and it resulted in Hank scoring the big goal, the overtime winner that vaults the Canucks into first in the Northwest Division for the first time since Dec. 23, 2008.

Ninety-eight days have passed since the Canucks were last kings of the castle and even longer since Henrik scored a goal that had everyone convinced he was Daniel.

Knotted at 1-1 with just over a minute remaining in overtime, Mikko Koivu won a faceoff deep in the Vancouver zone and the puck fluttered around the Canucks net before Kevin Bieksa got a hold of it and made a heads up play hitting Daniel with a swift pass.

What’s more dangerous than a Vancouver 3-on-2 in overtime? How about a Canucks 3-on-2 led by Daniel Sedin as he channels the speed of his inner Mason Raymond.

Daniel streaked down the ice and swerved into the Minnesota end with Mattias Ohlund at his left and Bieksa to his right. The defencemen made for perfect decoys as both drew a Minnesota defender and Koivu hustled back to take Daniel.

The seemingly botched offensive charge became the highlight of the night when Danny threw a blind through the legs backwards pass to Henrik, leaving him one-on-one with Niklas Backstrom.

A few seasons ago Backstrom may have gotten the best of a shy-shooting Henrik, but as Hank lasered his career-high 19th goal of the season past the Wild netminder stick side, his status was changed to  sniper.

“Daniel made a great play between his legs and I had two defensemen crossing in front of me there and I tried to hit it post and in,” said Henrik.

With one malicious swing of the stick Henrik confirmed what his teammates, Vancouver’s coaching staff and every Canucks fan out there already knew – that’s he’s more than a mere passer.

“He finally learned to shoot the puck and it’s good to see,” said Ryan Kesler.

“He’s the passer on that line but he has a great shot and he used it tonight.”

Henrik is now on a five-game point streak with four goals and six goals over that stretch; even more impressive are his 19 points in March, which helped Vancouver’s top line pile up 52 points in the month that usually gives teams a pretty good idea of where they stand heading into playoffs.

The outlook looks rosy for the Canucks in that regard as the one-game-at-a-time approach has paid dividends with Vancouver slowly but surely working their way up the Western Conference standings.

It was only two months ago that the Canucks trailed the Calgary Flames by a whopping 13 points, but Vancouver’s inconsistent play from early 2009 is now a feeble memory as the team has learned how to collect wins every which way possible.

This game was proof of that, as the Canucks didn’t try to force the issue against a Wild team that pays the bills with patience.

Through 20 minutes of play watching grass grow, paint dry or curling would have made for more excitement.

Through 40 minutes that was still the case, although Pavol Demitra scored a power play goal at 18:58 of the period, his 300th career score, to put the visitors in front 1-0.

Both clubs were still taking the pre-game skate early in the third before Marian Gaborik beat Roberto Luongo with a droopy shot to even things up.

From there Vancouver played for overtime, there’s no other way to describe an offensive effort that featured a lethal zero shots; Backstrom could have curled up on top of the net for a 20 minute cat nap, no jokes.

Luckily the fifth shotless period in franchise history didn’t wound the Canucks as Henrik capped off the game and the six-game road trip with a gem.

“We were playing on the road against a team that needed to win so we knew it was going to take 60 or 65 minutes to get the win,” said Henrik.

“We played tight defensively I thought and we didn’t create a whole lot of chances, but we’ll take the win.”

“Tonight for whatever reason I thought we lost our legs a little bit,” added coach Alain Vigneault, “and they came out real real strong and real assertive, but the goaltender was there and that’s why he’s the guy.”

Luongo stopped 33 shots in all, including four in overtime, three with the Canucks on the penalty kill with Sami Salo serving a frustrating puck-over-the-glass minor.

This was Lui’s second consecutive shutdown game and for as impressive as Vancouver’s offence has been in the last four weeks, Luongo has also held his ground posting a 10-3-1 record in 16 starts, alongside a 1.77 goals against average and .923 save percentage.

Out of this world goaltending and insane first line scoring are adding up to a lot of whiplash from double takes and right now that soreness has never felt so good.

300 – Career goals for Pavol Demitra

– Goals for Henrik Sedin this season, a new career-high

33 – Saves for Roberto Luongo in his 10th win of March

11-3-1 Vancouver's record in March

1 Where the Canucks sit in the Northwest Division

The Canucks had to be patient in this game, but without a shot in the third period Vancouver was a little too laid back.

Luckily the Sedins were their usual sensational selves, even trading roles Daniel and Henrik are a tour de force.

Pavol Demitra getting his 300th career goal against his former team was the icing on the cake.

Vancouver was badly outshot by Minnesota 34-19.

Rarely, if ever, does a team come into Minnesota and out play the Wild at their own suffocating defensive game.

That's just what the Canucks did as led by Willie Mitchell, Vancouver was stifling and despite giving up a lot of shots, Roberto Luongo was up to the test, as usual.

Kevin Bieksa deserves credit for his play on this night, especially in overtime when he made the game-winning goal happen.

Vancouver is getting a knack for not giving up power play goals and it's leading to checks in the wins column.

The Canucks killed off all five Wild power plays and although Minnesota was reserved with only two penalties against, Vancouver went 1-for-2.
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