Vancouver beat goaltender Steve Mason twice by creating traffic in front of the net and the Canucks cruised to a 3-1 win over the Jackets on Sunday night.
“That was our main focus tonight and we executed pretty well,” said Ryan Kesler
, the man all up in Mason’s grill allowing the Canucks to go up 2-0 early in the second period.
We’ll get to Kesler’s goal in a moment, homage must first be paid to Vancouver’s opening score.
After peppering Mason with 13 shots through 19:55 of the first period, Sami Salo
unleashed a snarling blast on the power play that eluded the netminder and burnt a hole through the mesh.
Salo’s fifth goal of the season, assisted by Henrik Sedin
and Mats Sundin, was timely as only five seconds remained on the scoreboard; it was the score Vancouver deserved after heavily outplaying Columbus early on.
The 1-0 lead came from Salo’s blade, yet everyone in GM Place knew who deserved credit for the tally. Yes, the leaping Swede Daniel Sedin
, who was parked just outside the paint with his four-ways on.
“That’s a canon, but I don’t think Sami scores if Danny’s not in front,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
“Mason didn’t see anything. As hard of a shot as I think he has, part of beating these great quality goaltenders on the first shot is you’ve got to have traffic in front and I thought Danny did a great job on that play.”
If at first you do succeed, try try again.
Vancouver went back to the well just 1:42 into the second and it yielded the same result.
This time it was Kesler trying to keep Mason’s peepers from seeing the point shot and he gained enough position on Marc Methot in front to do just that.
Sundin let a shot fly from outside the left face-off dot and Kesler connected with the lumber to tip in his 19th goal of the season in his 300th NHL game.
Mason waved his glove is disgust as he was helpless on another Canucks goal.
“You can’t stop what you can’t see,” said Kesler.
“I knew I couldn’t get in front of him for the screen so I just tried to get my stick on it and I deflected it enough so it went down and caught him off guard.”
The Blue Jackets, winners of five straight games against the Canucks dating back to last season, were suddenly the ones caught off guard and although Rick Nash scored six minutes into the third, the swarm was outworked on this night.
From puck drop to team celebration, Vancouver played one of its most complete games in recent memory. There wasn’t a lack of effort or intensity from the Canucks at any point in this win, contrary to Friday’s victory over Tampa Bay, as the home side was rigid in every facet of its game.
“I think our guys focused on this as a playoff game,” said Vigneault.
“We know how tight right now everything is and our game at both ends of the rink was really solid all night long, I think we had only given them two scoring chances after two periods we haven’t done that all year.”
“It was maybe not the best game to watch, but it was the kind of game you need to play in the playoffs to win,” added Steve Bernier, who didn’t collect any points, but played a part in Alex Burrows’ insurance goal – a.k.a the butter on the popcorn.
Through two periods Burrows didn’t have any shots on goal, instead opting to pass and play wingman for the Sedins.
“After the second Bernier told me to shoot the puck, don’t be shy,” said Burrows, who did just that with over eight minutes remaining in the game.
As a 3-on-1 left Columbus’ Methot alone to fend off Daniel Sedin
, Burrows and Kevin Bieksa
, Danny swooped in with the puck down the right wing. He dropped the biscuit for Burr 10 feet into the zone and instead of passing it back, Burrows listened to his inner Bernier and let a shot rip.
What a shot it was as the puck whistled into the top left corner, Mason swung his glove but it was all for show as not even a police radar could have clocked that zinger.
“When we came down on the 3-on-1, Danny made a good play at first so I wanted to get it back to him for the tap in or something like that, but the d-man didn’t really bite on me and I was able to walk in and get a shot off.”
“Unbelievable goal,” assessed Bernier of his student’s work. “He’s got real talent, to see him shoot like that and score it’s a good feeling for him and it’s a good feeling for the rest of the team.”
The goodness doesn’t stop there as Vancouver gave itself some breathing room in beating Columbus, the team directly underneath the Canucks in the standings.
The Canucks solidified themselves in fifth spot in the Western Conference with 72 points, while the Blue Jackets fell four back having played one more game.
“The breathing room is nice and it’s very, very important, but you know what, there are still a lot of games left in the season and one game won’t do it," said Bernier.
"We need to play like this for the rest of the season if we want to make the playoffs and be in a good spot in the playoffs.”
Vancouver next opportunity for a super fine performance is Tuesday night when Northwest Division rival Minnesota comes to town.