The Vancouver Canucks survived an injury to Ryan Miller and rode a three-goal second period to hand the New York Islanders a rare home loss, 4-0. Eddie Lack was outstanding, stopping all 27 shots in relief of Miller for a combined 37-save shutout.
Though the scoreline hints at a blowout and rotten egg, the story is a little more nuanced than that. Ultimately the result turned on special teams: The Isles struck out on multiple early power play opportunities, while the Canucks cashed in on two of theirs. But this was a game where the hockey gods stubbornly refused the Isles' offerings.
The Islanders opened as they often have this season, piling on the pressure and pushing for a lead. But for the first time in seven games, the opening goal was not theirs to be had. Meanwhile, the Canucks withstood that early pressure and then gave as good as they received while building a 3-0 lead in the middle period. You could rightly say the Isles were unlucky, but the Canucks won this one through good goaltending and good play overall -- not through any kind of retreat-and-pray approach.
Even Jannik Hansen's crash into Miller with the score still 1-0 did not alter things -- and in fact, Miller made one final save, his 10th, while pulling himself up despite a right leg injury that took the brunt of the impact.
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Outstanding early chances -- a couple in particular generated by a mesmerizing John Tavares rush -- led to good saves by Miller, and a power play that came up empty. After the Tavares moves drew the first penalty, the Isles power play actually began with the second unit, and they moved the puck well. So did the first unit that relieved them once Tavares and company caught their breath, but the best chances were setups for Johnny Boychuk that sailed wide.
The Canucks' first power play carried over into the second period, when Zack Kassian was left open on a zone entry and blasted a shot off of the far post, then off the back of Jaroslav Halak's leg and over the line. The second came midway through the period, with quick Canucks puck movement eluding the Islanders PK and leaving Radim Vrbata open with time to draw Halak over and beat him on the near post.
While the Isles kept pushing for a way past Lack, at least one goal to reduce the deficit to one at the second intermission, the Canucks got a backbreaker on a great dump-in play: A hard hit on Thomas Hickey, who had gone to retrieve the rim-around, popped the puck loose to Ronald Kenins, who fed Bo Horvat in the slot to beat Halak around a screen.
Over the course of the night Josh Bailey, Tavares, Ryan Strome and Michael Grabner were among the Islanders with notable reasons to curse Lack.
But Lack was good. The Canucks were good. The Isles were unlucky but also have their own special teams to blame. Whether it would finish 1-0, 4-0 or 4-3, this game never looked like one that would go the Isles way.
- Both converted Canucks power plays, cruelly, were on penalties to Kael Mouillierat in his second NHL game.
- Yannick Weber finished scoring with an empty netter with 11 seconds to go, but the Isles actually had Halak pulled for nearly four minutes. They mostly did fine, but the Canucks were comfortable icing the puck and the Isles were basically doing 6-on-5 drills.
- Kassian took a late penalty for roughing, you might say eye-gouging, Cal Clutterbuck with swings around a linesman while Clutterbuck was already tied up by Daniel Sedin. Later, he got into a jousting incident with players on the Canucks bench as he skated by. No love lost with an agitator who used to be on one side of an old Northwestern Division rivalry.
- Frans Nielsen sent Official Lighthouse Hockey HQ into a panic and sprint to the store to stock up on canned goods, when he hit the ice in pain after an awkward landing from a check by Derek Dorsett. He did return for the third period, taking a regular six shifts. But this could be a "really feels it in the morning" thing.
- Per the broadcast, this was just the second time all season the Isles have been behind 3-0 in a game.
- The Canucks wept both meetings with the Isles this season, Lack enjoying a fair bit of revenge after the Isles overturned a three-goal third-period deficit on him to blitz the Canucks late last season.
They said it:
Tavares, cont: "The difference tonight was small. The special teams put us behind the 8 ball and after that we didn't score on our chances."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) February 23, 2015
Capuano: "There's no question we had our chances, we just didn't get the bounces and that's going to happen some nights."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) February 23, 2015
Clutterbuck, cont: "We can lose a game or two, but then we get back on course and win a few. I'm not worried about us at all."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) February 23, 2015
Capuano, on Nielsen: "He's a warrior, obviously. We'll evaluate him tonight and see how he is tomorrow."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) February 23, 2015
Please be well. With Mikhail Grabovski already out, but Casey Cizikas eligible to come back from IR, Capuano did mention Ryan Strome as a center option if Nielsen misses time.
There is no letup though: The Isles are home to the Coyotes on Tuesday night.