Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Canucks Fall To Philly Then Lose & Add Goalie

It was a eventful day at GM Place, and it continued that way into the evening. The Canucks capped off their home portion of the 2008 schedule with a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. In the process, goalie Curtis Sanford went down with a groin injury that could keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks. This occured on the same night that the Canucks made a trade to acquire goalie Jason LaBarbera from the Los Angeles Kings. More on that later.

A lot of Canucks fans might have expected the club to be distracted heading into this game following the debut of Mats Sundin at practice for the first time earlier in the day. However, the home team came out with lots of energy to start the contest. Kevin Bieska through a solid hit on the opening shift against Flyers forward Simon Gagne and then proceeded to drop the gloves with Philly captain Mike Richards. Gagne wound up leaving the game with a shoulder injury just 15 seconds into the action.

The Flyers drew first blood on a nice passing play during a rush into the Vancouver zone. Claude Giroux and Matt Carle did great work to get the puck to Jeff Carter, who wound sliding his back-handed chance past Sanford. For Carter, it was his team-leading 27th goal of the season at 3:16.

The Canucks were able to tie the game up on their first power play chance of the night. Off a face off in the Flyers end, Pavol Demitra wound up getting the puck low in the zone to Henrik Sedin, who wasted no time dishing it off to his brother. Daniel Sedin was then able to snap home his shot over the shoulder of Martin Biron. Daniel's team-high 18th of the season was also his third power play marker of the season at 16:54.

Less than a minute later, the Flyers got their lead back. Scott Hartnell's long blast found its way by Sanford. Carter and Joffrey Lupul help Hartnell notch his 14th of the season at 17:39. That would be the last goal allowed by Sanford, who didn't return after the first intermission. It was revealed afterwards that he suffered a groin injury and has subsequently been placed on the club's injured reserve list for up to two weeks.

Cory Schneider came in to start the second period and wound up allowing the first shot that came his way. Josh Gratton was able to get a loose puck into the slot which wound up being gobbled up by Jonathon Kalinski. He was able to scoop the puck to the back of the net for his first ever NHL goal. It also proved to be the game winner and it came at 2:36.

The Canucks picked up their play and had a couple of great chances to capitalize on the power play. Both Daniel Sedin and Mason Raymond had some golden opportunities in close, but were unable to get the chances past Biron. Eventually Vancouver did get the goal they deserved. Alex Burrows fed a beautiful pass off the half boards to the low slot, where Ryan Kesler re-directed a nifty finish benhind the netminder. Steve Bernier gets the other assist on Kesler's 9th of the season at 11:56.

Schneider came up with a couple of hi-lite reel saves to keep his team close before the period was out. He robbed Lupul and Hartnell on chances that on many other nights would be sure-goals. At the other end of the rink, Willie Mitchell had a couple of fantastic chance down low around the Flyers crease, but was unable to finish.

Both goalies were the best players in the final frame, where no goals were scored. The best save for Biron came on Bernier with under seven minutes to play. He looked to have found the top corner with a wrist shot, until Biron made a miraculous glove save. The best save for Schneider came off of Hartnell who was robbed on a toe save after going to the back-hand on a breakaway. The Canucks were able to get Schneider to the bench for the extra attacker and finished the period on the power play, but were unable to force the game to overtime.

Final shots on net favoured the Canucks 31-29. In what was a relatively disciplined night for both clubs, the Canucks finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play while the Flyers were 0-for-1.

As mentioned off the top, the Canucks announced a trade during the first intermission of tonight's contest. LaBarbera comes to the Canucks from L.A. in exchange for a 7th round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The 28 year-old who grew up in both Burnaby and Prince George, B.C. has appeared in 19 games this year with the Kings. His overall record is 5-8-4 with a 2.83 GAA and a save percentage of 89.3%. He has appeared in 98 career NHL games split between L.A. and the New York Rangers. He will join the Canucks for their two-game trip to finish off this week in Nashville and Atlanta.

Now with an overall record of 20-15-3, the Canucks complete 2008 with a 12-month record of 37-34-9. To open up 2009, the Canucks will play the Predators on New Year's Day. Game time on Thursday will be 5:00pm PST.

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