Sunday, April 12, 2009

Canucks Wrap Season With OT Shut Out

It wasn't a pretty way to finish off the regular season Saturday afternoon in the Mile High City. However, it was enough to clinch another Northwest Division title and earn home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Canucks posted a 1-0 shut out win in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche, giving Vancouver 100 points to conclude the 82-game campaign.

The Canucks came out firing on all cylinders to start the game, generating eight shots inside the first two minutes of action. However they weren't able to beat goalie Peter Budaj, who had a record of 3-0-0 against the Canucks this season.

Vancouver went to the intermission with 19 shots for their efforts, but they weren't able to keep momentum on their side in the middle frame as they were only able to muster up four shots on goal. At the other end of the rink, Roberto Luongo was solid, as he turned aside anything the struggling Avs were able to put together in the way of good offensive chances.

In the third period, the Canucks were able to pick up the pace, but still had their difficulties beating Budaj. At the same time, they played a strong defensive period, not allowing Colorado much in the way of opportunities. As the game wound down and regulation time ended, the Canucks earned the single point they needed to clinch a Northwest Division banner.

The last time the Canucks were in overtime, Henrik Sedin netted the winner in a 2-1 decision against the Minnesota Wild on March 31. On this afternoon, Henrik proved to be the OT hero again. On the opening shift of overtime, Willie Mitchell was able to get the puck into the Avs right corner for Daniel Sedin. He cycled the puck to his brother who proceeded to make his way around the net. As he came around the net, Henrik attempted to get the puck back to Daniel across the face of the goal. However, his pass wound up deflecting off the skate of Scott Hannan and underneath Budaj. Henrik's 22nd goal of the season and Daniel's 51st assist of the season each gave the Sedin's 82 points to finish off the year tied for the Canucks scoring lead.

The winning goal, which came 40 seconds into overtime, also gave the Canucks 100 points, a milestone reached by the club for just the fifth time in franchise history. The victory also gave Luongo his 9th shut-out of the season. It moves him into a tie with Kirk McLean for most shut-outs by a Canucks goalie (20).

Vancouver finished the game out-shooting Colorado 33-22. Both teams wound up going 0-for-3 on the power play.

The Canucks conclude the regular season with an overall record of 45-27-10. They were one of the best teams in the entire league when it came to their play down the stretch drive. Since the beginning of February, the Canucks posted a record of 23-7-2.

The Canucks will know by the end of Easter Sunday who their opponent will be in the opening round of the playoffs. The best bet is likely the St. Louis Blues, who with a victory over the Avalanche in Denver Sunday night, will finish the season in 6th place in the Western Conference. If the Blues don't earn a maximum two points, then the Canucks will face the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that has qualified for the post-season for the first time in franchise history.

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