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Canucks beat Ducks in shootout to clinch playoff berth

by John Kreiser
Add the Vancouver Canucks to the list of teams that have punched their tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Canucks became the ninth team to lock up a playoff berth when Kyle Wellwood and Pavol Demitra scored in the shootout to give Vancouver a wild 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. The victory gives the Canucks 98 points, nine more than ninth-place Calgary; one more will lock up the Northwest Division title for the second consecutive season.

Barring a collapse by either San Jose or Chicago, the Canucks appear destined for the third seed in the West.

After Anaheim's Curtis Perry scored against Andrew Raycroft in the first round of the shootout, Wellwood flipped a shot off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net to get the Canucks even. Raycroft made a diving save on Teemu Selanne, Demitra roofed a backhander and Raycroft ended the game by stopping Bobby Ryan's wrister with his pads.

"We have that check mark by our name," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "That was our obecjtive/ Now we have to go out and wrap up the division."

Anaheim's Saku Koivu, forced overtime by scoring his second goal of the night with 1:24 remaining, Ryan's pass into the slot deflected off the skate of Perry and came right to Koivu, who had a half-empty net to shoot at and didn't miss.

"We came back and played well fighting to the end there," Koivu said. "We needed two points, there is no doubt. Calgary won their game, so it’s a tough one. At this point, we have to forget this one as quick as possible."

Vancouver had a power-play chance in overtime when Ryan was called for tripping Sami Salo in the offensive zone with 1:57 remaining, and the Canucks nearly won it twice -- both Kevin Bieksa and Salo beat Curtis McElhinney cleanly but hit the post to his right.

The victory was the 11th for the Canucks in a game in which they trailed after two periods.

"We were down after two, but the guys buckled down and we were able to win the game," Vigneault said.

Vancouver rookie Michael Grabner, who came into the game with all of two NHL goals, had the Canucks' first three goals for his first NHL hat trick. He scored twice early in the third period to help Vancouver overcome a 2-1 deficit, only to have Selanne get his second of the night at 9:20 during a power play to tie the score.

Grabner tied the game 1:22 into the third period when he fired a shot from the slot that caught the inside of the post and went into the net. He completed the hat trick at 3:55 by reaching out with his stick to deflect Ehrhoff's shot behind McElhinney.

Selanne tied it when he raced to the net and got a stick on Koivu's pass from the right circle, deflecting it past Andrew Raycroft. But Jannik Hansen gave Vancouver its third lead of the night hit a wide-open net for his ninth of the season after McElhinney kicked the rebound of Christian Ehrhoff's blast from the left point back into the slot at 13:33.

Koivu opened the scoring 2:01 into the second period when Jason Blake reversed the puck to the Finnish center, who wheeled into the slot and whipped a backhander past Raycroft. Vancouver's backup netminder got the start one night after starter Roberto Luongo was torched for eight goals in an 8-3 loss at Los Angeles.

Grabner tied it at 10:07, whipping home a wrist shot on a 2-on-1 break. Selanne put Anaheim back in front at 14:31 when he pumped home a rebound after Raycroft stopped Lubomir Visnovsky's power-play blast. It was Selanne's 602nd career goal, moving him past Hall of Famer Jari Kurri for the most NHL goals scored by a Finnish-born player.

"I’d rather not pass him and get these points to give us a chance," Selanne said. "What happened earlier in the season put us behind the eight ball. That is why we are where we are. We’ll just keep battling as long as we have a chance and see what happens. It’s tough to lose the one point tonight."
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