That was Vancouver’s game plan going into its Sunday night game at Rexall Place in Edmonton against the Oilers and the Canucks accomplished just that clipping the home team 2-1.
Alex Burrows scored 6:12 into the first period, Henrik Sedin netted the game-winner 6:37 into the second and Roberto Luongo stopped 11 shots to help Vancouver improve to 7-1-1 against the Northwest Division, 11-6-2 versus the Western Conference and 16-8-4 overall.
A night after sending Markus Naslund off in style, the Canucks were far from suffering from an emotional letdown, instead skating circles around the Oilers to open the game.
That energy culminated in a tic-tac-toe goal off what seemed like a harmless shoot-in from Daniel Sedin when he sent the puck into the Edmonton zone from centre ice. It was, in fact, a shoot-in with purpose as Henrik Sedin pounced on the puck sending it across the ice to Daniel, who tapped it to Burrows to the left of Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk for the easy goal, Burrows’ fifth of the season.
“Our game as a line involves a lot with the forecheck and when we can get pucks in spots that we want a puck to be in and create some forecheck that way, it’s huge for us and that’s how we’re going to create some offence,” explained Burrows of Daniel’s strategic dump-in.
More impressive passing from the Sedins put Vancouver up 2-0 off Henrik Sedin’s fifth score on the year; Ryan Kesler got the puck to Daniel five feet in front of the Edmonton net and he dished off to Henrik a quick one-timer.
Two goals was all the Canucks needed to take down the Oilers for the second time this season, but Vancouver was 4.5 seconds from only needing a single score to beat its divisional foes.
The Canucks played a masterful third period that included holding the Oilers to no shots on goal until their final rush down the ice when Jordan Eberle beat Luongo with a wrist shot top shelf as a pair of players crashed into the net.
Close, but no cigar, in terms of Luongo recording his 54th career shutout.
With how well the Canucks played, Luongo is undoubtedly fine with how the game ended, especially considering it was on the tail end of two games in as many nights.
“We didn’t really play the way we wanted against Tampa and even if it’s back-to-back, a lot of times it feels better to play the second game than people think it does,” said Mikael Samuelsson. “You’re into the groove and your timing is better and everything, so sometimes it’s easier.”
The Canucks kept it simple and the win wasn’t their most strenuous of the season, yet Burrows said it’s because of how well Vancouver paid attention to detail against the red-hot Oilers, who were 5-0-1 in their last six games coming into this contest.
“We kept it simple through that neutral zone, we made really smart plays getting pucks deep and we didn’t feed their transition by turning the puck over,” said Burrows. “We got pucks deep, we got a good jump on it and our Ds had a really good gap for us and we had good backside pressure from our forwards.”
Vancouver finished 0-for-4 on the power play; the Canucks failed to convert on a nearly two-minute 5-on-3 late in the third.
Not a fan of shootouts, Roberto Luongo will vouch for penalty shots.
After Edmonton forward Magnus Paajarvi was dragged down going in on Luongo midway through the first period, he was a awarded a penalty shot. Little did Paajarvi know that Luongo is masterful in these one-on-one situations.
Luongo stood his ground against Paajarvi by poke checking a low backhand shot to keep the Oilers off the board. The save improved Luongo’s career penalty shot record to 16 saves on 18 shots, a success rate of 88 per cent.
Since coming to Vancouver, Luongo has faced nine penalty shots and only been beaten twice, first on November 2, 2006, by Brian Rolston in a 5-3 loss to Minnesota, then by Michael Nylander on October 13, 2008 in a 5-1 defeat by Washington.
Luongo has stopped the last five penalty shot attempts foiling Sam Gagner, Alexander Frolov, Patrick Sharp, Alex Semin and now Paajarvi. The Canucks are 6-1-0 in games when Luongo stops a penalty shot.
Daniel Sedin’s assist on Alex Burrows’ goal extended his point streak to eight games, his longest since opening the season with points in nine straight; the last time the Canucks held a team without a shot for a period was on December 21, 2006, in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.