People often say that history tends to repeat itself. After watching this game, another offensive classic, between the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s hard to disagree. For the second time in two meetings, the Bolts and Canucks played a back and forth match that ended with a 5-4 decision in extra time for the visiting team. Here are my rough game notes with some opinion bits thrown in.
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to fall behind in this one. There was so much tension in the first few minutes. It was like the Lightning didn’t want to make a mistake due to fear of the Canucks’ offense. Only a couple minutes in, Alex Edler rifled one past Dwayne Roloson. When scoring first, the Canucks had 22 wins on the season coming into this one. That was not a stat any Bolts fan wanted to hear. On the TV broadcast, Chief kept going on about how the shot was tipped in tight. I’ve watched the replay from every angle possible and I honestly don’t believe that’s the case. Roloson has got to have that one; especially that early in the game.
Those problems were compounded when the Lightning took a penalty, putting one of the best road PPs to work. Marty St. Louis took a goaltender interference penalty that could be described as marginal at best. He was pushed in by Alex Sulzer; apparently the referees didn’t see that. Effectively, the Edler goal and the St. Louis penalty didn’t allow the Lightning to create any momentum early in this game. Thankfully, the Bolts were able to kill of the penalty without giving up any really solid chances.
After killing off the penalty, more than five minutes into the game, the Bolts got their first shot on net. Let’s ignore the fact that the Bolts didn’t manage to get a shot on net against a team playing its third game in four nights. The shot was the result of a beautiful pass from Vinny to Stamkos. Stammer was right in the slot and he let a great shot go. Unfortunately, Cory Schneider got over to make the stop. It’s that kind of save that makes me think that he is the goalie we need down here. Couldn’t Steve Yzerman have gone over to Mike Gillis at the intermission so we could have had Schneider in the second period? A fan can dream. Despite letting in a number of goals on the night, I really liked Schneider.
Down 1-0, it didn’t really feel like the game was over. The Lightning were creating chances, pressuring a little bit and playing decently. Then, fans’ prayers were answered. The Canucks took a penalty. Of course, as you would expect, the Lightning failed to convert on the PP. Not only that, they got scored on! Jannik Hansen, the gritty third liner for the Canucks, battled harder than any Lightning player on that shift and put the puck past Roloson. That sequence really concerned me; I haven’t seen St. Louis look that bad in a long, long time.
Prior to this paragraph I mentioned how much I would love to have Cory Schneider in a Bolts jersey. Those sentiments were equaled when the Canucks were forced to kill off another penalty. The Lightning had 4 or 5 grade-A chances that were just shut down by Cory Schneider. He was calm, cool and poised in the net. Man, how good is this guy?
Credit the comeback to Steven Stamkos. His 29th of the season, midway through the second period, was really the catalyst for everything that was to come on the night. With 29 goals through 41 games, 60 goals isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Consider that the Lightning could have easily come out of the first intermission down and defeated. They didn’t. Fans have got to be happy with the resilience that was shown throughout the game after the first twenty minutes.
Unfortunately, the Canucks’ quick strike offense was able to hurt the Lightning just minute later when Manny Malhotra got one past Roloson. For a guy coming off a severe eye injury, it’s nice to see him playing (even if it’s for the opposition). Once again, I’m not one of those guys who wishes pain upon the Vancouver franchise. Having Manny, a class act, in this league is great for the game. After what he went through, I was thrilled to see him score.
Again, I was stupid to count the Lightning out. Vinny ended up beating Schneider right at the end of the second period. For a guy that we all harp on so often, it’s hard to argue with his production this season. With 16 goals through 41 games of Lightning play, 30 goals is a very easy target for the guy to hit. Is it worth the money we are paying him? No it’s not. That said, he’s helping, not hurting the team. It’s always nice to see our captain produce offensively and chip in defensively.
The funny thing about that goal was that I went to get a snack thinking that the period was going to end. How many fans left before the Canucks struck back? With two seconds left in the period, Kesler beat Roloson with assists from Raymond and Hodgson. This Hodgson kid is going to be a really special player one day. I’d argue that out of all rookies in the NHL this year, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Hodgson has the best hockey sense. His ability to see the ice is uncanny. I feel bad for the kid playing behind two of the best centers in the league, but his time will come.
At that point, I REALLY felt like the game was over. How often does the powerhouse Canuck team lose a two goal lead in the third period? Not often enough if you’re talking from the opposition’s point of view. Once again, stupidity took over my brain and I counted us right out of this one. Cue the comeback. With two goals in the third period from Downie and Malone, we had a brand new hockey game. The nice thing about Downie’s game tonight was that he was really annoying the Canucks. If he can continue to play that kind of game, while remaining out of the penalty box (only two PIM tonight) then we should see the evolution of a real strong player. As I said in my pre-game report, if the Bolts managed to frustrate the Canucks, the chances would come.
Overtime had a few chances from either team but nothing worth noting. We were off to the shootout. When I saw Alain Vigneault’s shootout line-up, I was a little concerned. Two defensemen and Raymond? What an interesting tactic. To keep the story short: Raymond scored when nobody else could and the Canucks won the game. I’m not totally convinced that Raymond didn’t stop the puck on his spin-o-rama move, but I’m not going to complain about it.
Overall, we didn’t get the defensive chess match that I was hoping for. As I said in the opening, history tends to repeat itself and it certainly did between these two teams. With another 5-4 victory for the visiting team it will be interesting to see what happens next time these groups meet up.
Now, with their 3 game win streak on home ice ended, the Bolts will look to start a new one against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. I’ll be back with my game preview for that one prior to puck drop.
Thanks for reading, and have a great night!
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