Friday, February 27, 2009

Canucks Edge Bolts In a Yawner

In wasn't a pretty night of NHL hockey at General Motors Place Friday. However, the Canucks found a way to collect two points as they skated away with a 2-1 victory over the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bolts netminder Kario Ramo had to come up with some clutch saves early on in the first period as he denied the likes of Alex Burrows in the opening minute. Ramo would be beat five minutes in during a Vancouver power play five minutes in, but Kevin Bieksa's shot rattled off the post.

Eventually the home team was able to draw first blood and it came with the man advantage. Ryan Kesler raced into the Lightning end on a dump-in from Pavol Demitra and wound up beating two Lightning defencemen to the puck. He got it out in front to Alexander Edler who missed on his first chance. Kesler then got it back into the slot for Edler who didn't make a mistake on his second chance. Edler now has seven goals on the season, four of which have come on the power play. The Canucks found themselves in the lead at 11:41.

Rookie Steven Stamkos thought he had pulled the visitors on to level terms late in the period as he had Roberto Luongo beat. However, his chance batted out of mid-air wound up being knocked off the cross bar.

The Canucks really had a tough time generating any chances in the second period as they didn't get a shot on net until past the midway point of the frame. Henrik Sedin had a great chance to put Vancouver up by a pair but he failed to capitalize on a wrap-around. Then as the Lightning skated down ice the other way, Stamkos was able to jab in loose puck in a goal mouth scramble. Martin St. Louis and Mark Recchi collect the helpers on the 12th of the season for the 1st overall pick in 2008 at 14:36.

Vancouver did generate some very good chances in the third period with the likes of Mats Sundin and Daniel Sedin being stopped on good saves courtesy of Ramo. However the Canucks were able to get a lucky break to get the lead back. Steve Bernier found a loose puck behind the Tampa Bay net and slid the puck towards the crease. It wound up deflecting off the skate of Vincent Lecavalier and underneath Ramo. For Bernier, it was his first goal in nine games. Demitra and Ryan Johnson chip in the assists on Bernier's 13th of the season. It also proved to be his third game-winning marker of the year and it came at 9:26.

Ramo was able to get to the bench for the extra attacker in the final minute of the period and the Lightning were very close to forcing the game to overtime. Lecavalier was able to get a shot free from between the circles, but it wound up deflecting off a skate and just wide of the target behind Luongo.

The Canucks finished off the game out-shooting Tampa Bay 25-21. Vancouver wrapped up the night going 1-for-5 on the power play while the Lightning went 0-for-1. For what it's worth, the Canucks have been just short-handed once in their last eight periods of play on home ice.

The month of February comes to a close for the Canucks and they couldn't really have asked for a better record following a disappointing January. The club went 9-2-0 after the first month of 2009, one that saw them go 2-5-5.

Having improved their overall record now to 31-22-8, the Canucks sit with 70 points and are two points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets for fifth spot in the Western Conference. The two teams will meet up for the final time this year on Sunday at GM Place. Game time will be 5:00pm PST.

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