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Solid Start

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
It was a familiar story for the Vancouver Canucks, as their goaltender stole two points on the road.

But this win came with a twist.

Curtis Sanford did his best Roberto Luongo impression in his first start as a Canuck and made 35 saves as Vancouver remained undefeated on the road, upending the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.

Sanford was especially impressive in the second period, when his team was out-shot 14-0.

“You’re going to have periods like that during the year and it’s just something you have to battle through,” said Sanford. “Fortunately, we came out with the lead.”

But just barely.

After Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa gave Vancouver a 2-0 first period lead, the Canucks failed to register another shot for nearly 31 minutes. Much of the play over that span was in the Vancouver end, as the Canucks took six penalties in the middle frame.

“We spent a lot of time killing penalties in the second period and it kind of wears you out a bit,” said Sanford. “But you just focus on the next save. The next save is always the biggest one.”

Sanford’s afternoon got off to a shaky start when, just five seconds into the game, a Manny Malhotra wrister eluded the Vancouver goaltender. Sanford reached for the puck with his glove, but missed, and the puck rang off the cross bar.

 “I was fortunate enough to have a couple of posts go my way,” said Sanford.

From there, the Vancouver goaltender quickly settled in.

After Rick Nash scored on a 5-on-3 to make it a 2-1 game, Sanford shut the door the rest of the way.

He made a good shoulder save on a Nash slap-shot from the circle just a couple of minutes later.

And only a few moments after that, Sanford made his best save of the night, flashing the leather on Columbus forward Gilbert Brule. Brule broke in on a 2-on-1 with teammate Mike Peca and elected to keep, firing a hard slap-shot for the top corner. But Sanford threw out the glove hand, wowing the crowd and preserving the lead for his fragile Vancouver team.

After Markus Naslund added an insurance goal midway through the third period, the Canucks looked determined to hold on to the win for their deserving goaltender.

“It was nice,” said Matt Cooke, who skated with Kesler and Alex Burrows on Vancouver’s most dangerous line. “Curtis kept us in it.”

“It’s really nice to get Curtis the win,” added Bieksa.

Sanford’s win in his first start of the season should go a long way in helping him man the net more often than last season’s backup goaltender, Dany Sabourin.

Sabourin lost his first six starts in 2006-07 and his lackluster and inconsistent play was a primary reason why Luongo appeared in 76 games.

If Sanford can consistently provide this Vancouver team with a chance to win, Bobby Lou may find himself riding the bench a little bit more than he expected.  

0 – Shots for Vancouver in the second period.

5 – Points in three games for the red-hot Ryan Kesler.

7 – Shots on goal for Canuck-killer David Vyborny, who came in with 6 goals in his last 9 games against Vancouver. Vyborny couldn’t beat Sanford on this night.

26 – Minutes in ice-time for Kevin Bieksa to lead all skaters. Bieksa also notched his first goal of the season.

The offense was nonexistent for half the night, going almost 31 minutes without registering a single shot.

But Vancouver did well to capitalize on the few opportunities they had.

They gave up too many shots – 36 in total – but did a good job of letting Curtis Sanford see most of them.

The defense also limited the number of grade-A scoring chances Columbus had, holding the Jackets to the perimeter for much of the night.

The power-play scored a big goal to give Vancouver an early 2-0 lead.

The penalty kill was phenomenal, particularly in the second period, in preserving that lead.

Sanford was the team’s best penalty killer on a night they went 9-for-10.
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