I lived in Vancouver for four years, but never went to a Canucks game until yesterday. Mary’s boss is a season ticket holder, and he is kind enough to let his employees go to the games he can’t make it to. On Friday he asked Mary if she could go, so on Sunday we hoofed it up to Vancouver to see our first NHL game: the Canucks vs. the Colorado Avalanche.
I did not grow up watching hockey, but I must admit it is a great sport to watch live. It’s fast-paced and exciting, and yet there are breaks between periods for you to get up and use the restroom or get something to eat. Also, I can’t speak for all arenas, but GM Place is small enough that everyone can follow the action, and it doesn’t seem like there are any bad seats. Mary and I were in row 22 on the lower level, right at one of the blue lines. We could see everything just fine, even the action at the other end of the rink.
Also, it was an exciting game. The Canucks scored three goals in the first period, so everyone was feeling pretty good. Then the Avalanche mounted a comeback, the Canucks responded, and the game ended 4-2 Canucks. The players even put the extra effort to squeeze a fight in with 12.5 seconds left. Those guys know what the fans love. No wonder it was the 250th consecutive sellout at GM Place, a streak that dates back to 2002.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canucks couldn’t buy a win on home ice back in January. Now they can’t even give a game away in Vancouver.
Kyle Wellwood, Alex Burrows and Taylor Pyatt scored first-period goals, and the Canucks overcame a bad goal early in the third to beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday night. Wellwood had a power-play goal, and Burrows scored short-handed.
Ryan Kesler had three assists, and Alex Edler added a power-play goal with 1:13 left as Vancouver matched a franchise record with nine straight home wins. The Canucks, celebrating their 250th straight sellout crowd, lost nine straight home games through Jan. 31, but haven’t lost at GM Place since.
“It’s crazy, we couldn’t buy a win a month and a half ago, we always found a way to lose every game,” said Burrows, who also had an assist. “But we turned it around, and right now we have a lot of confidence in our own building.
“That’s a good thing heading into the playoffs.”
At the end of January, it seemed a stretch to suggest they’d even make it. Now, with a 14-3-1 overall record since snapping that skid, they’re up to fifth place in the tight Western Conference, and trail slumping Chicago by just two points in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
With three more meetings in the final month of the season, finally being able to beat the Avalanche could have a significant effect on where the Canucks finish.
Sunday’s win ended an eight-game (0-5-3), 16-month losing skid against Colorado.
“They dominated us in games past and we wanted to do something about it tonight,” said Kesler after the Canucks also moved within five of Calgary for the Northwest Division lead. Vancouver has one more game left than the Flames.
“We wanted to exclude ourselves from the bottom three or four teams that are fighting for a playoff spot,” Kesler added. “Now we’re trying to catch Calgary and Chicago. We have them worried about us now which is a good thing.”
Ryan Smyth and Darcy Tucker scored for Colorado. The Avalanche were coming off consecutive wins against Minnesota and Edmonton that hurt both teams playoff hopes and moved Colorado a point out of last place.
“Right now, it’s playing for pride,” said defenseman John-Michael Liles, who assisted on both Avalanche goals. “You don’t focus on being a spoiler, but if that’s the case down the road, obviously we’re trying to win every game. We’re playing for pride and playing for each other, and that’s all you can focus on right now. In the first period, we didn’t have that mentality.”
Wellwood opened the scoring with a power-play deflection 2:50 in, his second goal in three games after going 21 without scoring.
Burrows doubled the lead less than 5 minutes later with a brilliant short-handed effort. After Burrows hit the post on a breakaway from his own blue line, Kesler stole the puck again before Colorado could get back out of its own end and fed cross-ice to Burrows for a quick shot. Andrew Raycroft slid across and stacked the pads to stop him, but Burrows was alone with plenty of time to deposit the rebound into an empty net for his seventh goal in seven games.
“He generates his own luck,” Kesler said of the hard-working Burrows, who recently moved from the third to first line and signed a four-year, $8 million contract extension. “He’s working hard and making that line go right now.”
Pyatt converted Burrows’ pass to make it 3-0 just 2 seconds after another Colorado penalty expired, but Colorado got that back on Smyth’s power-play deflection — and 25th goal of the season — early in the second period.
Tucker celebrated his 34th birthday with a gift from Luongo 14 seconds into the third. The goalie fumbled a dump in behind his own net and Tucker banked a shot from behind the net in off Luongo as he scrambled to get back in goal.
“I think he just wants us to build character as we move forward and he’s doing a pretty good job,” coach Alain Vigneault said, laughing about Luongo’s second third-period breakdown in two games. “As a group for a guy that bails us out so many times, when a bad bounce goes against him we have to find a way to buckle down and get it done and we did again tonight.”
Besides, Luongo didn’t consider it a bad goal.
“It kind of took a funny hop off my stick and went out of my reach,” said Loungo, who finished with 18 saves and redeemed himself with a great glove stop off Paul Stastny on a power play a minute later. “I know you guys will like to talk it up as a bad goal, but I’ll consider it an unlucky goal.”
The Avalanche lost defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist when he was hit near the right eye by a slap shot midway through the second period. Tjarnqvist was escorted immediately to the locker room, leaving a trail of blood on the ice as he was helped off, and did not return to the game.
“He’s going to be fine,” coach Tony Granato said. “Obviously, he had some stitches. He took a shot above the eye and he’ll be fine, but it took a while to stitch him up. We thought it was better to keep him out the rest of the way.”
Raycroft, starting for the first time in five games after Peter Budaj won three of the last four games, finished with 19 saves.