The Vancouver Canucks accomplished something rarely seen at GM Place Thursday night: A win over the San Jose Sharks.
On a night made for anyone with ‘Ryan’ in their name, the Canuck power play came out swinging, and was the difference in a 3-2 win. Alexander Edler and Ryan Kesler each had a goal and an assist on the power play. Ryan Johnson scored the eventual game-winner, his first of the season, and first goal in 83 games. Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks scored his 16th of the season, on a great inside-outside move to get around Christian Ehrhoff and beat a downed Luongo.
The Canucks by no means rested on their laurels after going up 2-0 thanks to the power play. But the Sharks have had mastery over the Canucks over the last 3 seasons, winning 8 of their last nine encounters. Evgeni Nabokov has been as much of the reason for that as any Shark, perhaps save for Joe Thornton. But Kesler was his old antagonistic self, shadowing big Joe’s every move, receiving several punches and a headlock for his troubles.
Joe Pavelski had a prominent night for the Sharks, also tallying a goal and an assist. He showed some incredible dexterity as he wheeled at the left faceoff circle during some extended Shark pressure. Kent Huskins wristed the puck in from the blueline, and Pavelski knocked it down from chest height, and in one motion snapped the puck under Roberto Luongo’s trapper. The goal came with just over three minutes remaining in the third period. Nabokov was pulled late for the extra attacker, but Luongo calmly denied the rest of the shots directed his way. Daniel Sedin nearly backhanded the puck into the empty cage from outside the blueline, but the Canucks didn’t need the extra marker anyway. Nabokov finished the night with 23 saves, while 200 feet away, Luongo stopped 32 of 34 shots for his 36th win of the season.
The Calgary Flames will be rooting for the Canucks on Saturday (for once) as Vancouver hosts Detroit in an important match for the Red Wings. The Red Wings currently hold the final playoff spot in the West, with a game in hand and one point advantage over the Flames.
The Canucks play back to back nights Tuesday and Wednesday, travelling to Edmonton to play the last place Oilers, and are back home to face the Anaheim Ducks. Both teams will be looking to play spoiler for the Canucks. The Oilers have no shot at making the playoffs, and the Ducks are all but out of the playoff race. Finally, the Sharks have a chance for revenge when the Canucks travel to San Jose on the 27th. Depending on how the Sharks play between now and then, the game could have huge implications in the Western playoff picture. They are five points up on the ‘Nucks, and have a game in hand, but are 4-5-1 over the last ten, and have lost 3 straight. Right now, the Canucks have the tiebreaker (wins) should they finish tied in points come season’s end.