Thursday, January 1, 2009

Canucks Open '09 Will Solid Goaltending Effort

It was a great way to start off the New Year. It was also a great way for a goaltender to make his debut with his new team on the road. Jason LaBarbera turned aside 31 shots Thursday night to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators.

This was the first time the two clubs met since their game full of fireworks December 9 in Music City. Jordin Tootoo, who didn't take part in that game due to injury, was determined to start some fireworks of his own on this night as he pursuaded Alex Burrows to drop the gloves 22 seconds into the game. Niether player was worse off for their efforts as the scrap got the crowd into it early.

Mattias Ohlund opened the scoring for the Canucks just as the team had seen a power play expire. After gathering a loose puck on the left boards, Ohlund snapped it through bodies and saw his shot beat goalie Pekka Rinne down low. Alexander Edler and Henrik Sedin help Ohlund score his third goal of the season. It also proved to be his first goal in 28 games and it came at 7:19.

LaBarbera did his part to keep the Canucks in the lead for the rest of the period, denying Antti Pihlstrom on two close range chances as well Preds captain Jason Arnott from the slot.

Rinne made a huge save in the early portion of the second period off a glorious chance by Henirk. Pavol Demitra broke into the Nashville zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Sedin. Demitra's saucer pass was perfect, but Henrik's shot would be denied on a brilliant stick save by Rinne.

That save seemed to spark the Predators, who immediately took control of the action for the rest of the period. Just as a Vancouver penalty expired, Radek Bonk dropped a back-handed pass between his legs to a wide open Rich Peverley. He made no mistake snapping home his 2nd goal of the season. Dan Hamhuis tallies the other assist on the tying goal at 7:53.

Early on in the third period, LaBarbera came up with his best save of the night. A point shot by Brad Zanon was able to squeek by the goalie, but as the puck was trickling towards the goal-line, LaBarbera got his paddle down to keep the puck from entering the net.

That save really picked up the emotion of the visitors, who were able to regain the lead with a little more than four mintues remaining. With a power play just having wrapped up, Willie Mitchell let a point shot go that wound up being deflected home in front of the net by Jason Jaffray. Steve Bernier gets the other assist on Jaffray's second goal of the year. It also proved to be his second game-winner of the campaign at 15:54.

Joel Ward had a golden opportunity to get the equalizer for Nashville with just over two minutes to go, but he couldn't beat LaBarbera to the back-hand. He did draw a penalty on the play, which gave the Preds a man advantage for much of the remainder of the game. However, despite getting the extra attacker on the ice to make it a 6-on-4 man advantage, the Predators couldn't score and the Canucks were able to skate away with their sixth straight win over their Nashville rivals.

Final shots on net were tied 32-32. The Canucks finished the night going 0-for-4 on the power play while they were successful in all three of their penalty kills.

Now with an overall record of 21-15-3, the Canucks get set to take on the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night. Game time at the Phillips Arena is 4:30pm PST.

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