The Vancouver Canucks opened a commanding 3-0 early in the second period only to let the Ottawa Senators score a pair of goals in less than two minutes to put the visitors, losers of 15 of their last 16 games, right back in it.
That’s what happens when you are playing with just four defencemen as the Canucks were on this night.
The good news is that Vancouver was able to hold on and sneak past Ottawa 4-2 Monday evening at Rogers Arena to extend the Canucks winning streak to six-games and push their home regulation unbeaten streak to 15 games.
This win, unlike so many others this season, was quite forgettable.
The night started with Keith Ballard and Milan Michalek getting tangled behind the Canucks goal, Ballard fell awkwardly with his right leg twisting like no one’s right leg should twist and he was lost for the remainder of the night. The severity of the injury will be determined Tuesday after an MRI is done.
Vancouver surged on, five defencemen strong, and took a 2-0 lead off goals from Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, but with 3:27 left in the first period, the forecast for the Canucks blueline shifted from bad to worse.
Chris Neil took a run at Henrik Sedin and despite Daniel Sedin sniffing around the Senators forward, it was Aaron Rome who jumped in and threw down with Neil. For his efforts Rome was assessed two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.
With Ballard down and Rome in the box, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Alberts were left to hold the fort.
The Canucks took a 3-0 lead 2:12 into the second period and the NHL all but penciled this win into the books before a Nick Foligno backhander fooled Roberto Luongo from in close and Jason Spezza finished off a Senators 3-on-0 to make it a 3-2 game.
Still no sign of Ballard or Rome, thank goodness Alberts chose Monday to return after missing eight games with a shoulder injury.
“I got more minutes than I expected, just with the four D, but it’s something to build off of,” said Alberts, who played 17:10 on 25 shifts in his first action since January 16th. “Obviously the timing is off on some things and some miscues, but we’ll go from there.”
Hamhuis played a season-high 30:32 and Bieksa put up his fourth highest minutes on the year at 27:44 on a blueline now without Ballard, Edler and Sami Salo, although Salo is currently conditioning with the Manitoba Moose and could be ready to play for the Canucks before long.
Until then, everyone will continue chipping in to get the job done like they did to close out this game.
“I think it’s tough for the D when they’re playing with four back there and they’re getting pressured as hard as they are,” said Kesler, who finished with two points. “They did a good job, obviously going out there every other shift is pretty tiring for those guys. I thought they dealt with the adversity pretty well.”
Luongo stopped 31 shots in the win, but was not available for comment after the game for unknown reasons.
If Ryan Kesler’s season can be summed up in one shift, it went down Monday night.
The play started early in the second period at the Canucks blueline when Kesler’s stick broke. Pressing on with the play, he kicked the puck down the ice and as it entered the Senators’ zone, Mason Raymond gave chase. Raymond beat Filip Kuba to it and then hit Kesler with a pass to the right of Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott.
Kesler, ignoring the defence of Brian Lee, spotted Mikael Samuelsson streaking to the net and he hit him with a perfect pass, which allowed the NHL's recently named 2nd Star to pot his 12th goal of the season – the eventual game-winner.
Back up a few plays and ask yourself, how did Kesler get back into the play so quickly? Well, he’s got Jannik Hansen to thank for that.
Dropping his broken lumber to the ice, Kesler kicked the puck and made a beeline to the Canucks bench in search of a new stick. Hansen was there to hand his off and Kesler was right back in the mix before anyone could blink, ready to assist on the golden goal.
Talk about tenacity.
“On that instance what they did was they played smart and they kept the puck going forward and by keeping the puck going forward, he caught them and didn’t lose much time grabbing the right-handed stick,” praised coach Alain Vigneault. “At least it was the right side.”
Dating back to a power play goal allowed to the Calgary Flames on January 22nd, the Canucks have not surrendered a score on the man advantage in 31 opposing attempts; happy birthday to the puck – it was 135 years ago to the day that a puck was first mentioned in the Gazette Paper in Montreal. One inch thick, three inches in diameter and 135 years old.