There were some good performances from players on each team at the Canucks game Tuesday night, but if you wanted to rate jobs well done, you would have to hand the prize to referees Chris Rooney and Ghislain Hebert, who worked the game.
Consider their achievement. In a game that should have been won by the home team going away, they managed to keep the visitors in the affair all night long by virtue of a quick call here and a blind eye there. And in a league where the commissioner values parity - both within games and especially in the standings - above all, it's not hard to predict a rapid rise in the fortunes of both these characters as their careers unfold.
First you need to ignore Minny forward Mike Rupp running around trying to hit the Sedin twins after the whistle had blown in the first period as he seemed to try to incite some sort of response from Vancouver. That helped, but still, Vancouver forged to a 2-0 lead on goals by Kevin Biek-sa and Jannik Hansen, so more drastic measures were called for lest the home team get another one and this one turn one-sided. That can't happen, so the blind eye combined with harsh judgment was necessary.
That's when Justin Falk runs a guy who's just come off a high-profile concussion in Daniel Sedin into the glass after the whistle on the side boards 11 minutes into the second period. Rooney and Hebert judiciously ignore that, which could have been a penalty, but then make sure to call Max Lapierre when he takes exception to the play, whereby one of the stars of the Canucks is being run over for no good reason.
"I felt I had to go in because I thought one of our guys got hit late," said Lapierre. "I thought we both could have gone, but you know how it goes, you never know in hockey."
The penalty to Lapierre gives the ready-to-fold Wild a power play that they finally convert when Jason Garrison makes a boneheaded attempt at reversing the puck on his backhand in his own zone. The score has been engineered into a 2-1 game after two periods. But in order to achieve that, a quick whistle in the last minute to disallow a Vancouver goal on a loose puck in plain sight in the Minnesota crease by Rooney was necessary; he evidently wasn't able to see the puck that most everyone else in the rink could.
It was back to work early in the third period for the zebras whose work is never done to again ignore Rupp driving his knee into Bieksa's legs behind the Vancouver goal when he hits the Canuck defenceman early in the session.
"I was actually caught in a rut just before that and as he was coming at me I thought, 'I hope he doesn't hit me,'" said Bieksa. "I'll get some ice on it and it should be all right."
It's somehow still 2-1 and it looks to most of those who have long since fallen asleep trying to watch this crap that the two teams are reasonably evenly matched as they flail away in the third period.
Still in it despite scarcely having control of the puck, the Wild aren't surprisingly enthused at their chances and gain life and play pretty well in the third, helped along by a hooking call on Alex Burrows in the offensive zone that nicely quells Vancouver's momentum. And before it's all over, there are a couple of good Minnesota scoring chances and it can be argued it was an absolute nail-biter down to the wire if you're really into clichés.
It was the perfect result for the officials, absolutely perfect. There was no great miscarriage of justice, nobody screaming that this was a "horrible call" or that particular play was a "travesty." No, nothing that would draw attention.
The best team still won and the team that deserved nothing got nothing. And we're not saying that Vancouver is head and shoulders over the Wild or that they're an infinitely better team. But on this night the visitors had played the previous evening in Calgary and the home team has things going well at the moment and were clearly the better squad.
To make it look close, you had to somehow get to the point where the team that had virtually no energy or puck-possession time got five power-play opportunities compared with just two for the team that was full of life all night but that happens, doesn't it? Another night in the NHL.
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Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, right, leaves his skates as he fires a shot toward the goal against the Minnesota Wild's Mikko Koivu and goalie Darcy Kuemper during second-period action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG, The Province