Jump to content
The Official Site of the Vancouver Canucks
Canucks Community
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Puck Luck & The Promised Land



If I could’ve been anywhere last night when Kesler — hobbling à la Kirk Gibson — tipped home Henrik’s wrister with 13.2 seconds left in the third, and when Bieksa slapped a ground ball past Niemi for the double-OT winner, it would have been wherever Tom Larscheid was. As each goal went in, I couldn’t help but wish Tommy and Shorty were calling the game. You just know Tommy would have been going ballistic on the air. And once he settled down, he would have told you about puck luck and how you’ve gotta be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. And he would’ve sung the praises of Kesler’s herculean effort the way no other colour man can.

There were a few wild bounces on both sides in last night’s game, but in the end, the stars aligned in Vancouver’s favour. Uncannily, last night’s double-overtime Game 5 thriller on home ice to send the Canucks to the Promised Land came 17 years to the day after their double-overtime Game 5 thriller on home ice against Toronto, when Gus Adams potted the winner to send Vancouver to the ’94 Cup Finals. Both games took place on March 24.

For the 2011 edition of the Vancouver Canucks, Alex Burrows opened the scoring on yet another piece of Sedin magic. Henrik, who set up both of Vancouver’s goals in regulation, set a new Canucks’ standard for assists in a series with 11. Along with Luongo, Henrik and Daniel were monsters in the decisive Game 5. Despite a relative dearth of shots on goal (San Jose outshot Vancouver 56-34), the Sedins controlled the play when they were on the ice, and it started on the first shift of the game. On the Burrows goal, which came 8:02 into the 1st, the Sedins won the puck battle along the boards, and after a slick between-the-legs drop pass from Daniel to Henrik, Henrik found Burrows all alone cutting to the net for an easy one-timer past Niemi.

San Jose tied the score on a bit of a bone-head play by Keith Ballard. Ballard (22:29 TOI), who played a very strong game alongside rookie Chris Tanev (20:42 TOI), was on the ice for a rare penalty-killing shift. When Dan Boyle snapped a shot towards the net at 9:57 of the 2nd, Ballard tried to catch it. It would have been easy pickings for Luongo, but the puck nicked Ballard’s glove and dipped into the net. It was a groaner, but you’ve gotta have selective amnesia on the ice, and Ballard continued to take regular shifts with the steady Tanev, and their minutes helped keep the defense fresh as the game wore on.

Then, in the opening minute of the 3rd, Kent Huskins sent a wobbler through the neutral zone that bounced past Alex Edler, sending Pavelski and Setoguchi in alone on Luongo for the go-ahead goal. Luongo made a knee-jerk decision to come out and win the loose puck, but a diving Joe Pavelski tipped it to Setoguchi who one-timed the puck off the post and into the vacated Vancouver net. But apparently one bad bounce deserves another, and Vancouver got theirs in the second overtime.

Before Bieksa’s goal could happen, though, Ryan Kesler did his best Kirk Gibson impression to tie the game with a miraculous last-minute goal that seemed to come out of nowhere. Kesler, who’d pulled up lame just before Boyle’s tying goal (perhaps a pulled right hip flexor or quadricep) and was skating gingerly throughout most of the third, won the offensive zone faceoff and drifted towards the net to screen Niemi. As the Sedins, Burrows, Edler, and Bieksa worked the puck around the outside, they couldn’t get into the middle of the ice to create any scoring chances. Time was running out, and then Henrik Sedin, who’s made clutch play after clutch play throughout the series, fired a wrister towards the net and Kesler tipped it between Niemi’s legs. I wonder how Tommy would have described it. And I wonder how he reacted wherever he was watching it. A few fist pumps, maybe? Hugs all around and jumping up and down? No doubt, he was cheering like a man on Cloud 9.

In the opening five minutes of the first overtime, the Canucks looked hungry. They had all the momentum after a goal in the dying seconds, but San Jose withstood the pressure and slowly began to dictate play. But you’d have to say that despite registering 56 shots on net, the Sharks rarely penetrated Vancouver’s defense, and Luongo seldom left rebounds hanging around. Vancouver boxed out well, and Luongo did a fabulous job of kicking rebounds into the corners or else leaving no garbage for the Sharks to pounce on.

And then, mid-way through the fifth period of hockey, Kevin Bieksa stepped up to the plate and sent a ground ball past an unsuspecting Niemi. Bieksa, who’d have to be neck-and-neck with Henrik Sedin if they named a Western Conference Final MVP, was a defensive stalwart on Vancouver’s shutdown pair with Dan Hamhuis, and his offensive contributions mostly proved to be turning points. He saved the best for last with one of the strangest goals you’ll ever see.

It was like something out of a commercial where Wayne Gretzky is having a game of horse with Mario Lemieux and they’re plotting ridiculous goals. In this case, Edler fired the puck off the third stanchion and back to the point, where Bieksa slapped at the bouncing puck and sent a knuckler past Niemi. Everyone on the ice except Bieksa and Marleau lost track of the puck, but the refs must have seen it too because no one blew the whistle. What a way to end it: with a bit of good old-fashioned puck luck.

It’s astonishing to think that Bieksa’s goal came 17 years to the day after the Canucks clinched their last berth to the Finals when Greg Adams beat Felix Potvin in double-overtime of Game 5 on home ice. Pure coincidence? Or was there some kind of cosmic destiny at work?


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...