Jarome Iginla and Mikael Backlund had the Calgary Flames ahead 2-0 heading into the third period in the final regular season game for both teams Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome, but the Canucks played a scrappy, playoff-prepping third period with Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler scoring to force an overtime that Christian Ehrhoff ended in a 3-2 Vancouver win.
This game marked the fifth time the Canucks have rallied from a second period deficit and Kesler, who notched his 41st goal of the season, said it was just a matter of playing Vancouver hockey for a strong final 20 minutes.
“We knew we were taking way too many penalties and were weren’t playing the right kind of hockey, but we knew we were still in the game,” said Kesler.
“That’s the thing about this group, we know we’re always in the game and always believe and we believed tonight and we got the job done.”
This game also marked the first time all season Vancouver’s top six defencemen were in the line-up; following Alex Edler’s return earlier this week, Dan Hamhuis was the final piece of the puzzle. Hamhuis missed six games with a concussion.
The shuffling on defence bumped Aaron Rome up to the fourth line to help the Canucks make up for the absence of Raffi Torres, who is suspended another two games. Rome had three shots and dished out a team-best four hits.
The spotlight remained on Kesler on this night as he scored for the second consecutive game, but he also fell awkwardly into the boards early in the second period. After a quick trip to the dressing room Kesler was back on the ice and he confirmed after the game that he “tweaked” his leg, but that he didn’t “think it was anything serious.”
And with that, the Canucks turn the page on their season as the NHL Playoffs begin next week. Vancouver’s first round opponent is yet to be determined and to Kesler and the Canucks, any team will do.
“Personally, and I know for a lot of guys in the room, it’s doesn’t matter. You’ve got to go through everybody to win and we’ll take it one team at a time.
“We have big expectations in that room and that’s the pressure we put on ourselves, we’re not going to let the pressure from outside get to us. We haven’t all year and we’ll continue with that attitude going into playoffs.”
Last year it was Sidney Crosby, this year Martin St. Louis.
St. Louis gave dethroning Daniel Sedin as the NHL’s leading scorer his best shot finishing five points back, but the Canucks forward remains on top and when the NHL’s regular season ends Sunday, Daniel will officially become the 2010-11 Art Ross Trophy winner.
Daniel, who finished the season with 41 goals and 63 assists for 104 points, all career-highs, follows in the footsteps of twin Henrik, last season’s Art Ross winner, as the brothers capture the award in back-to-back seasons for the first time in league history.
While surely overjoyed with the Art Ross win, Daniel will hear from Henrik that he won it with 104 points, compared to his 112 from last year. Sibling rivalry at its best.
Going into meetings with coach Alain Vigneault this past summer, Canucks backup goalie Cory Schneider apparently performed his best American Idol audition singing a few bars of The Weight, by The Band.
Take a load off Lou, Take a load for free, Take a load off Lou, And you put the load right on me, You put the load right on me.
Not one word of that is true, except for the fact that Schneider did exactly that, he took the load off Roberto Luongo’s shoulders this season and because of it, both netminders had career years.
Luongo and Schneider combined to allow a league-low 185 goals this season, awarding them a share of the William M. Jennings Trophy.
Schneider, who made his 25th appearance of the season against Calgary, finished the regular season with a record of 16-4-2, goals against average of 2.23 and .929 save percentage – all personal bests in his rookie campaign.
It was also a statistical gem of a season for Luongo, who started 60 games, his second fewest in five seasons with the Canucks. His 38-15-7 record was his third best ever, while a goals against average of 2.11 and .928 save percentage were both career-highs.
With just 185 goals against, the Canucks seat a new team record eclipsing the 2003-04 club that gave up 194.
The Canucks and Flames have now met seven times in the final game of the regular season for Vancouver and the Canucks hold a 4-3-1 advantage; Vancouver is 7-3-4 playing on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada this year.