Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canucks Cruise Past Leafs Saturday

A great playoff-like atmosphere at General Motors Place Saturday night saw the Vancouver Canucks wrap up their six-game home stand with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The first seven minutes were controlled by the Leafs. They were rewarded with a 5-on-3 power play and generated numerous chances. However, netminder Roberto Luongo came up with some clutch saves before the first in-house time-out. At that time, Vancouver was out-shot 10-0.

The Canucks were able to score on their first shot the way of Vesa Toskala. Off a face off in the Toronto zone, Shane O'Brien got the puck down to the right corner for Pavol Demitra. He wasted no time dishing the puck towards the slot for Kyle Wellwood, who wound up quickly re-directing it high under the cross bar on the short side of the netminder. Wellwood, playing against his former Leafs team mates for the first time, collected his team-leading 7th of the season at 7:43.

Before the period was out, the Canucks cashed in on a power play. This time Demitra found Mattias Ohlund at the middle of the point. His shot would be kicked away by Toskala, but the rebound would be snapped home by Ryan Kesler. For the Canucks assistant captain, it was his first power play goal of the year and his first goal in six games. Kesler's 5th of the campaign came at 18:10.

Vancouver built on their lead early on in the middle frame and it came on an odd-man rush. Jannik Hansen got the puck up the right wing for Alex Burrows who skated wide into the Toronto end. Instead of returning the puck to Hansen who drove the net, Burrows dropped the puck to the trailer being Willie Mitchell. He made no mistake depositing his first of the season. Mitchell also becomes the 9th Canucks skater this season to net what proves to be a game-winner and it occured at 3:35.

Just under five minutes later, the Canucks made it a 4-0 affair. Demitra, parked behind the Leafs net, found Lawrence Nycholat in the right face off circle. Instead of shooting, the d-man dished the puck to the low slot where Daniel Sedin redirected the puck home. Sedin's insurance marker at 8:31 would be the last goal given up by Toskala, who would be replaced by Curtis Joseph after allowing four goals on nine Canucks shots.

Niklas Hagman had a couple of great chances for the visitors to break the shut-out bid of Luongo. Late in the 2nd, he rattled a shot off the post and then was robbed on a great glove save near the midway point of the 3rd while working a power play.

Eventually the Leafs got on the scoreboard as the Canucks were unable to clear the puck on three different chances from their own end. Ian White snapped a shot through traffic that found its way to the back of the net. Jeff Finger and Anton Stralman get the helpers on White's 3rd of the season at 14:53. It was the first even-strength goal allowed by the Canucks in a whopping 365 minutes of action!

The final goal of the game came on a lucky break for Toronto as they worked a late power play. Matt Stajan had a pass bounce off his skate and across the goal line. Tomas Kaberle and Alexi Ponikarovski hit the score sheet on Stajan's 5th at 17:30.

Despite getting the extra attacker on the ice for the final moments of the game, the Leafs couldn't take another couple of steps to force the game to overtime. The Canucks were out-shot 30-15 on a night which saw Vancouver go 1-for-5 on the power play and 7-for-8 on the penalty kill.

The home club skated this game without defencemen Kevin Bieksa (foot) and Alexander Edler (flu). Both Nycholat and Rob Davison appeared in the line-up and put in a combined 26+ minutes of ice time.

The Canucks (10-6-1) concluded their lengthy home stand with a record of 4-1-1. Now the club will embark on a four-game trip to the eastern U.S. First up will be New York Islanders on Monday night. Game time from the Nassau Colisseum will be 4:00pm PST.

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