Thursday, January 12, 2012

Canucks win battle of Western Conference heavyweights

Daniel Sedin's OT goal drops Blues to 4th in conference; Arnott scores twice

If T.J. Oshie could have a do-over, he' would have stayed on the ice.

Daniel Sedin made Oshie and the Blues pay for a momentary decision.

Sedin's one-timer from the right circle --- the 700th point of his career -- in overtime enabled the Vancouver Canucks to stay on top of the Western Conference with a 3-2 victory over the Blues Thursday night.

The Canucks (28-14-3), who have 59 points, carried a power play over from late in the third period and had a 4-on-3. A sequence happened when Blues defenseman broke his stick blocking a shot. Oshie gave his stick to Polak, leaving him without one. After hesitating at first, Oshie heard the Blues' bench yelling for a new stick or line change, and Oshie tried to make a quick move, thus leaving Polak and Alex Pietrangelo there to fend off the top-ranked power play.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Matt D'Agostini (right) has a shot stopped by Canucks goalie
Robetto Luongo Thursday night.

The Canucks had full possession and Daniel Sedin ripped a shot past Brian Elliott after getting a feed from brother Henrik Sedin 46 seconds into overtime with David Backes in the penalty box.

"It's an area that we recently covered 5-on-4. Four-on-three, it wasn't very clear," Oshie said. "The bench was yelling to come. Right away I hesitated because I didn't want to leave the two d-men out there by themselves. I should have just stayed. With (the bench) yelling, I gotta know that I can't leave those two guys. I take that on my shoulders."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock took the blame.

"That's on us. That's not on him. That's on us. That's our fault," Hitchcock said. "We have a philosophy of a broken stick and it's on us. We do it 5-on-4, we did it in Montreal (Tuesday) and got away with it. We shouldn't have done it 4-on-3. We take full responsibility on that and I told the players that, too.

"We don't want to do it 4-on-3 ... unless it's an obvious play where you can get (a stick) from the bench and the puck's up for grabs and we've got possession. When the other team has possession, we don't want to change."

Elliott, who fell to 9-1-1 on home ice, said it was a shot he could have had.

"It's a save I wanted to have," said Elliott, who was the lone Blues player named to the All-Star Game today. "What can you do? We were trying to get a new stick and they obviously had the power play in overtime and it gives you a good chance to score."

The Canucks, who made the most of 21 shots in the game, were more than happy to take what the Blues (25-12-6) gave them on the play.

"We sort of caught a break there, they broke a stick and wanted to make a change," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "So we were able to catch them four-on-two.

"We found a way to win it in overtime."

It was all set up when Backes checked the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows into the corner boards with 19.9 seconds left in regulation. He got a boarding penalty on the play, a call the Blues didn't feel was worthy of as call.

Hitchcock was adament about it.

"I did not agree with the penalty at all ... not one bit," Hitchcock said. "I saw what I saw, it was a hockey play. I don't agree with the call."

The Canucks finished a four-game trip by going 3-1. They finished it off against a team they have the upmost respect for.

"They're a top team in this league," Daniel Sedin said of the Blues. "This is one of the toughest teams you can play right now. They were good even before the coaching change. Obviously, they're a little bit better now and they're going to be even better. Teams better watch out for them."

Burrows scored twice for the Canucks, and Roberto Luongo stopped 31 shots.

"They battled real hard tonight. Our execution was little off," Vigneault said of his team. "That's why you've got good goaltending and Louie gave us a chance with some big saves."

Jason Arnott scored twice for the Blues, who got 18 stops from Brian Elliott. They fell to 9-0-2 at home in their last 11 games and 17-3-3 overall at home. A regulation win would have moved them ahead of the Canucks into the top spot in the conference.

"Yeah, we came out the way we wanted to, played solid through the whole game," said Arnott, who has four goals in three games. "The chances that we had, we could have buried them. But Luongo stood in there. It's unfortunate, but we came out with a point. That's a positive thing for us. It's another learning experience for us when we've got a team on the ropes. We've got to keep them down and keep burying the puck."

Burrows helped the Canucks strike first after Daniel Sedin helped win a battle behind the net. The puck popped in front, where Burrows banged it past Elliott 2:48 into the game. The goal ended the Blues' shutout streak at 148:54, dating back to Jan. 5 against Edmonton.

Arnott struck back 1:02 later to get the Blues even. Ian Cole kept an errant clearing attempt in the Vancouver zone, Jamie Langenbrunner outworked his player in front and got the puck to Arnott, who slid it into an open net past Luongo.

Arnott netted his second of the game, the first two-goal game for him since Jan. 23, 2011 but not without a lot of help from Luongo. The goaltender kicked out Arnott's snap shot, then again foiled him on a backhand attempt -- but in an attempt to drop the puck and clear it himself, Luongo inadvertently whipped the puck into his own net to give the Blues a 2-1 lead 6:27 into the second period.

"I was a little upset that I didn't get much on the backhand because I saw a little bit of net open," Arnott said. "He just squeezed it and I went around the net and he just spun around and it came out from his arm or something and just went in. A lucky goal, but we'll take it."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Carlo Colaiacovo (28) battles with Vancouver's Alexandre
Burrows (middle) for a loose puck Thursday night.

The Blues pressed to get a two-goal lead and had adequate scoring chances on a power play midway through the period but could not get the third goal.

"We had good chances on the power play and good chances 5-on-5 and we just didn't bury the puck," Arnott said. "You're going to have nights like that. The main thing is to stay positive through it, stay focused and just come back that much stronger the next game."

After withstanding the Blues' fury, Burrows got the Canucks even with his second of the game late in the period. Manny Malhotra was able to win a pinch-in, and Alexander Edler's shot from the point was tipped by Burrows and went past Elliott with 2:08 left in the period to make it 2-2.

"Alex is a real big part of our team," Vigneault said of Burrows. "He's a big part of our group."

The Blues had a great opportunity to regain the lead but Backes and Oshie were unsuccessful on shorthanded breakaways. Backes came in along the right side after picking off a pass at the blue line and tried to beat Luongo short side, but the Canucks goalie flashed the leather with 1:21 left in the period. Oshie, at the end of a shift, had tired legs and never managed to get any kind of shot off, as he tried to deke and eventually lost the puck with 34.1 seconds left.

"It's tough," Oshie said. "On Backes' (Luongo) made a good save. On mine, I just couldn't get the puck to settle down. I had him beat clean and the puck just fumbled on me.

"It's tough because those are the situations we've got to finish on, especially me and Backs. When we get chances, we've got to put the puck in the net."

The Blues will continue their five-game homestand Saturday. They're expected to get defenseman Barret Jackman (hip) and Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) back then but they've battled with less than a 100 percent lineup and keep staying on par with the top teams in the NHL.

"We've got more cavalry coming in. It's a good feeling," Hitchcock said. "How are you not going to walk out of here with a good feeling? They're a good team, they're a real good team. We were right there the whole way. ... I thought we had a lot of really good play. We got great play from Arnott's line when we needed it, and Backes was a horse. We had a lot of good players tonight."

Added defenseman Ian Cole, who filled a lot of Jackman's role.

"I think that we are one of the big boys in the conference," Cole said. "... We had the opportunities to bury them, and we didn't. Missed opportunities for sure. Lesson learned."

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