Iain MacIntyre: Canucks ground Jets 5-2 for fifth win in six games

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
 
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VANCOUVER — The last time a team called the Winnipeg Jets won a game in Vancouver, it was 1995 and it took 78 points to make the playoffs in the National Hockey League’s Western Conference.

Tuesday, four years since the NHL returned to Winnipeg, the Jets came here on pace for a 98-point season and still had guaranteed themselves nothing. And they didn’t get any closer to the Stanley Cup tournament with a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks who, come to think of it, also have nothing secured for the playoffs despite being on pace for 102 points.

The NHL playoff race has been deeper than it is this season, but never faster. Everyone on the cusp of getting in seems to be sprinting like Usain Bolt -- downhill and downwind towards a pot of gold medals.

“I’m saying three more wins now, but everyone keeps winning,” Canuck goalie Eddie Lack said, his mathematical projection based on recent history but probably low this season for a team that crested 90 points on Tuesday. “I don’t know if it’s going to take 100 points to get in, you know? We’ve just got to keep playing, do our part here and, yeah, take care of business.”

Trying to secure a wildcard playoff berth of better, the Jets came to Vancouver having won five straight games. But they were a resistible force, as the Canucks scored three times in the second half of the middle period to take over a game they were clinging to while trailing 2-0.

It was Vancouver’s fifth win in six games, but the Canucks are on their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 19. Their power-play produced the tying goal Tuesday when finally given a chance, and has scored in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 30.

Timing is everything.

“All the teams around us are winning,” defenceman Yannik Weber said. “LA had a big win today (against the Rangers in New York) and Calgary doesn’t seem to lose anymore. We need to answer. Everybody’s fighting for their life, so it was kind of a playoff atmosphere and playoff hockey.”

And just like when the Canucks and Jets played actual playoff games in the 1990s, before Winnipeg lost its NHL team to Phoenix, Vancouver won.

Out-muscled, out-skated and outscored though 30 minutes and in apparent danger of being run out of their own rink, the Canucks scored three times in eight minutes late in the second period to turn a 2-0 deficit into a lead.

Outshot 8-2 in the first half of the second period and with almost nothing going for them, the Canucks generated a goal out of thin air at 10:57 when Chris Higgins’ quick shot from 30 feet appeared to tick Jets’ defenceman Mark Stuart and fool Jets’ goalie Michael Hutchinson, who was brilliant to that point.

The goal re-energized the Canucks who, when awarded their only power play of the night, tied it 2-2 at 16:29 when Weber rocketed a one-timer from the top of an umbrella formation through Daniel Sedin’s screen and past Hutchinson’s glove.

“We know how big special teams are,” Weber said. “The power play has maybe not been going great this year, but every PP is an opportunity to score. Today we saw that we can move the puck around pretty well and it doesn’t matter who has it, there’s going to be a (shooting) option. I think we have five threats. Eventually, we’re going to get a good look and tonight we got that and it gave us a lot of hope for the game.”

In case you don’t know how big special teams are, the Canucks are 15-1 this season when they generate more power-play goals than the opposition.

Three-and-a-half minutes after Weber tied it, Radim Vrbata, worth every cent of the $5-million-US salary he commanded last summer as a free agent, beat four Jets off the side boards on a dash to the net and outwaited Hutchinson before burying a forehand for his 28th goal of the season.

He scored his 29th into an unguarded net after Henrik Sedin’s empty-netter made it 4-2 earlier in the final minute.

Vrbata’s bolt towards the net for his winner might have been the fastest 50 feet he has skated this season.

“I’ve done some backchecks where maybe I was faster, but that was right up there,” Vrbata smiled.

Canuck goalie Eddie Lack made terrific saves late in the third period against Mark Schiefele and Michael Frolik when the Jets trailed 3-2. Jiri Tlusty beat him short-side 2:17 into the game and the Jets made it 2-0 lead at 5:07 of the second when Blake Wheeler dived to force a loose puck across the goal-line after Lack lost track of the puck from Drew Stafford’s wraparound, which was after Weber broke his stick and lost track of Stafford.

Weber, his stick and the Canucks were about to get much better.

“We just keep going and keep going, and we find ways of coming back,” Lack said.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

GAME ESSENTIALS

THE SKINNY

The Jets struck first as Jiri Tlusty, on just the second shot of the game for Winnipeg, beat Eddie Lack at 2:17. The Jets upped the margin to 2-0 at 5:07 of the second on a Blake Wheeler goal before the Canucks responded with three straight in the second as Chris Higgins, Yannick Weber (on the power play) and Radim Vrbata provided Vancouver with a 3-2 lead. Henrik Sedin and Vrbata added empty-netters to seal it.

TURNING POINT

With the Jets up 2-0 midway through the second period, outshooting the Canucks 8-2 and dominating the game, Chris Higgins beat Jets’ starter Michael Hutchinson with a one-timer off the rush on a sublime three-way passing play with linemates Vrbata and Nick Bonino. The goal, at the 10:57 mark, opened the floodgates and the Canucks were on their way to victory, their 43rd of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

With two empty-netters, the Canucks now have 20 ‘freebies’ on the season. They have five in the last three games … The Canucks improved to 28-1-2 leading after two periods while the Jets fell to 1-20-4 when trailing after 40 minutes … The Canucks bested the Jets in the faceoff circle, 33-30, and were led by Nick Bonino at 12-for-20 … The game was a sellout (18,870), just the 13th in 36 home dates.

QUOTABLE

“I think this team has surprised me at times. When we’ve been on the road, we’ve won some really big games in some really tough buildings. It takes a lot of character because they are really hard battles. I have to give a lot of credit to the players but we have a lot of work left, too.” — Canuck head coach Willie Desjardins on his team hitting the 90-point mark and being within reach of 100.

WHO’S NEXT?

The Canucks will meet the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday in the second game of this critical homestand. The teams have split the seasons series so far. The Patrick Roy-coached Avs won 7-3 on Oct. 24 and the Canucks returned the favour 5-2 on Nov. 4. Both games were played in Denver. The Avs outshot the Canucks 48-29 in their win. The Canucks had a 37-22 shot advantage in their victory.

Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
Vancouver Canucks’ Yannick Weber (6) celebrates his goal against the Winnipeg Jets with Alexander Edler (23).
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack makes a save on Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele.
Radim Vrbata #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring a goal against Winnipeg Jets in NHL action on March, 24, 2015 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett goes helmetless as Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson peaks around Adam Pardy.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Yannick Weber’s shot goes past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates his goal past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Yannick Weber (6) looks on.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack makes a save on Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele.
Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates his goal with teammates as Vancouver Canucks’ Yannick Weber (6) picks himself up off the ice.
Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks jumps out of the way of the shot while being defended against by Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets as goalie Michael Hutchinson #34 makes the save.
Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin (22) jumps in front of Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
Nick Bonino #13 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after teammate Chris Higgins #20 (not pictured) scores on goalie Michael Hutchinson #34 of the Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg Jets’ Lee Stempniak (20) tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Tanev (8) looks on.
Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates his goal past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Yannick Weber (6) looks on.
Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates with Mark Stuart #5 and Drew Stafford #12 after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks’ Luca Sbisa (5) battles with Winnipeg Jets’ Lee Stempniak (20).
Radim Vrbata #17 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a move before scoring on goalie Michael Hutchinson #34 of the Winnipeg Jets.
Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele celebrates a goal against Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17) gets his shot past Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (34).
Winnipeg Jets’ Jiri Tlusty (91) celebrates his goal past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates goal as frustrated Canucks look on.
Vancouver Canucks Alex Burrows in front of Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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