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Tenacious D

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Whether they’re looking for style points or just trying to keep fans on the absolute edge of their seats, the Vancouver Canucks are finding some interesting ways to win these days.

Thursday night’s 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes is a primo illustration of this; what team heads into an opposing rink and gives up a goal just 2:20 in?

Apparently the Canucks get a kick out of victory via the comeback as they fell behind 2-0 with four minutes to play in the opening period.

Panic was far from the player’s faces as they headed to the locker room down a pair of scores, the same way it was nowhere to be found 48 hours prior when Vancouver trailed St. Louis by the same score after 20 minutes.

The Canucks and Coyotes exchanged goals in the second period leaving the visitors behind going into the third, the same situation they were in against the Blues.

There was still no quit from Vancouver, but come on, taking down the Blues, a team that was 16-1-1 when leading after two periods, is one thing. Tempting fate and trying to mimic that comeback against a Coyotes team that was 17-0-1 when ahead after two was like dancing with the devil.

Turns out satan can two-step as the Canucks beat Ilya Bryzgalov with three unanswered goals in the third to win their fourth straight game.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Mattias Ohlund, who scored Vancouver’s first goal to jump-start the Canucks.

“Obviously we dug ourselves in the hole in the beginning, but we managed to come back and it’s a huge two points.”

The magma-hot RPM line of Ryan Kesler, Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin struck once and Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined for the game-winner on the power play, but on this night the Canucks had the defence to thank for the offence.

Vancouver’s beasty blueliners combined for seven points (2-5-7) in their strongest outing of the season.

After Ohlund netted his fourth goal of the season late in the second, which was assisted by Kevin Bieksa and D. Sedin, Sami Salo and Shane O’Brien came together to help Demitra pull the trigger early in the third.

Six minutes later Kyle Wellwood and Bieksa set up an Alex Edler blast to tie the game at 3-3 and the celebrations from that score were happily short-lived with Salo and Daniel combining to make the 12th game-winner of Henrik’s career an easy one.

“When you’ve got defencemen like us back there with rockets, just feed them, that’s what we’ve been telling the forwards all year is find Ohlund with the big shot and Sami and pucks are going to go in,” said a jovial Bieksa, who added that coming out swinging in the final period was the only way the Canucks were going to win this one.

“I think in the third we went out there with the mentality that we’re going to throw pucks on net and we won a couple big face-offs in their end and had a couple set plays that worked out for us.

“Their goalie made some big saves, but when he’s being peppered that much, pucks are going to go in.”

Vancouver outshot Phoenix 16-15 in the third period, but at one point the Canucks led 15-4. They finished the game ahead of the Coyotes 32-28 in shots, proving that when pucks get to the net, good things happen.

The same goes for winning face-offs. The Canucks were laughed out of the face-off circle through two periods, only to turn it around in the third and it made a monumental difference.

Vancouver finished 31-for-63 on draws, with two big wins leading to goals late in the game.

First Kyle Wellwood won a face-off in the Phoenix zone, Bieksa then hit Edler with a pass and he bulleted it in.

Not long after that Henrik Sedin won a draw and ended up on the receiving end of a pass from Daniel for the goal that put the Canucks in front for good.

The minor details were taken care of by the Canucks and their self-belief is soaring because of it.

“It’s big for our confidence to know coming in after one and being down two goals that we can come back from that,” said Bieksa.

“Going down the stretch we’re not going to be ahead all the time and these wins are big character wins and I’m proud of everybody in the room.”

For the first time in five games the locker room included Shane O’Brien, who had been a healthy scratch after spending some time in the doghouse of late.

He returned with a flair collecting his eighth helper of the season, but cautions that with the Dallas Stars in the headlights on Friday, he nor his teammates are getting too high on their success of late.

“Tonight’s a huge win, we’ll enjoy it on the plane, but the games are getting low here and we’re getting to the crunch point of the season, so we’ve got to move past this because tomorrow’s the biggest game of the year.”

With the win the Canucks move into sixth place in the Western Conference standings, one point behind the Anaheim Ducks and a single ahead of the Stars.

3 – Face-off wins that led to Canucks goals

  7 – Points from defencemen (2-5-7)

8 - Points for Pavol Demitra (2-6-8) in his last five games

– Goals for Vancouver in its last three contests

25 – Saves for Roberto Luongo, he struggled early but picked up his play late

On this night it was the defencemen who provided the offensive charge.

Led by goals from Mattias Ohlund and Alex Edler, the blueliners chipped in with seven points and were in on every Vancouver goal.

After being a tad quiet of late, the Sedins broke out with a three point (1-2-3) performance, including the game-winning goal.

Vancouver outshot Phoenix 32-28.

In the first period, two bad turnovers on defence led to a pair of Phoenix goals.

Although Vancouver fought its way back in this one, those goals could have been enough to sink the Canucks if not for some timely scoring.

The Canucks need to be better in their own end early in games; that's two straight they've trailed 2-0 after the opening period.

Vancouver has lost all means of penalty killing these days; if you're looking for a hole in the armour, that's it.

The Canucks gave up another power play goal, make that nine straight games with a PP goal against.

The opposition has converted 15-of-37 attempts over that stretch, leaving Vancouver with a penalty kill efficiency rate of 59.5 per cent.

Luckily the Canucks had their mojo working on the power play, kind of. The game-winner came while a man up; Vancouver was 1-for-5 overall.
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