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Special teams bonanza

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Hockey can be a complicated game at times, but at the end of the day it's quite simple.

Play well on special teams and you'll most likely come out on top.

Special teams success was the name of Vancouver's game in their 6-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers at GM Place on Saturday night, they went 4-for-6 while up a man and shut down Edmonton on all four of their power play chances.

Coming into the game the Canucks ranked 26th on the penalty kill and 29th (no, that's not a typo) while on the power play, during their recent six-game road trip their special teams play was abysmal at best, yet they truly pulled it together on this night and the Oilers didn't stand a chance.

"We've got a group in here that belives and we knew it was just a matter of time," said Mason Raymond, who sniped two power play goals on the night and is in the midst of a five-game point streak.

"I don't know if there was anything I can put my finger on, but when you believe and you're all working together and get shots at the net and traffic in front, things are going to happen."

Jannik Hansen also had a pair of goals and d-man Kevin Bieksa chipped in with two helpers as a lot of Canucks put forth great individual efforts against the Oilers, but it was the play on special teams that finally has the players holding their heads high.

"Our power play did an outstanding job and I don't think we gave up any on the PK, so most nights that's probably going to be the difference for our team and tonight we did a great job both ways," Roberto Luongo said after backstopping the Canucks to their fourth win of the season, a 25 save performance.

"We were challenged a bit in the second period there, they came back and tied it up late, we showed a lot of character coming back in the third and they really didn't have anything the rest of the way."

Kyle Wellwood, playing in just his second game since being recalled from the Manitoba Moose, scored Vancouver's third power play goal of the game, which would stand as the eventual game-winner. He wasn't with the Canucks for most of their recent road trip so he isn't overly familiar with why the team was having trouble putting the puck in the net while up a man, all he knows is that they seem to have fixed it.

"We had a few days off to practice it and we had some new guys out there and we were able to move the puck well and when the puck went to the net, it seemed to bounce the right way for us," said Wellwood.

"I think we've been getting the puck in better on the breakouts, that's one thing I noticed. We're breaking out and getting it in and now we're getting more setup time and we get more chances and eventually they're going to go in."

Even before Wellwood scored his second goal in as many games, the Canucks used their seemingly unstoppable play on special teams to build a 3-1 lead on the Oilers midway through the second period. That's when Edmonton got a few lucky bounces to even things up at 3-3 and nearly took the lead if not for the glove of Roberto Luongo. One swipe and the momentum was back in Vancouver's favour.

Edmonton's Sam Gagner got a step on Alex Edler and he streaked in alone on Luongo, but Edler hauled him down and Gagner was awarded a penalty shot. Gagner and Luongo went mano-a-mano with Louie winning the battle with his glove to give the Canucks new life.

"It was a big moment in the game," admitted Luongo. "It was right at the end of the second period so obviously if they score it's 4-3 and we go into the lockerroom. I know he likes to make a lot of moves on his breakaway and I said to myself that I wanted to be as spacious as possible and he ended up shooting right away so that's why I didn't move much, I was kind of surprised."

That save gave the Canucks a huge edge heading into the final 20 minutes of play and they would use it to beat Mathieu Garon three more times before the final horn.

"If you're looking at a key turning point in the game, they get two bounces in my mind to make it 3-3, then they get that penalty shot where if they score, that's huge momentum for them," said coach Alain Vigneault. "That save was obviously a turning point in the game and we were able to capitalize on it in the third."

Vancouver is now 4-4-0 on the season with another home game on the horizon before they head back on the road for a pair of games to complete October. This win over the Oilers was big, there's no doubt about that, but Luongo said he and his teammates need to string together another win and get some consistency going.

"We need this type of game every night. We did a good job and we responded, now we have to put it behind us and get ready for the next one. Just because we won tonight doesn't mean were going to win Tuesday. We've got to make sure we're ready to play and compete like we did tonight."

Career hat-tricks for Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen; both had 2 goals against the Oilers

0 Goals allowed by Vancouver's penalty killers on four Edmonton attempts

3 – Wins for the Canucks when appearing on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada

– Power play goals scored by the Canucks on six opportunities

4 – Wins for Vancouver when scoring the game's first goal

The power play truly brought the offence to life and the Canucks looked unstoppable because of it.

Kyle Wellwood continues to impress since being summoned from the farm, he scored again and now has three points in two games.

Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen both scored twice as Vancouver's youth stepped up big time.

The Oilers were buzzing a lot in the second period and early in the third, but the defence of the Canucks didn't buckle. They stood their ground, made the smart plays and even chipped in offensively with four assists. As a team, Vancouver blocked 12 shots.

Finally, finally, finally. 

Things were downright ugly for Vancouver's special teams on the road but they turned it up a notch against Edmonton and it won them the game.

They went 4-for-6 while up a man and the Canucks held the Oilers scoreless on their power play at 0-for-4.

This was the kind of inspired effort on special teams that the Canucks need a lot more often, they've been devoting a lot more practice time to it so hopefully special teams success like this will happen a little more often.
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