'Our team had to push back'
Provoked even before the puck dropped, the Canucks answer the bell
You saw it coming but you still couldn't believe it when it happened.
Kevin Bieksa stepping in for rookie Kellen Lain to take the draw against the Calgary Flames' Kevin Westgarth. Dale Weise backing off the centre line to square up with Blair Jones. Tom Sestito across from Brian McGrattan. OK, at least that part made some sense.
Then the puck was dropped. Then it was the Charlestown Chiefs versus the Syracuse Bulldogs.
Five separate fights. Five separate acts of mayhem.
Ten minutes of chaos followed by a sideshow on the Canucks' bench starring John Tortorella. Two seconds in and you had 152 penalty minutes with eight game misconducts.
Kellen Lain's first NHL game consisted of two seconds, a fight and a gamer. The Canucks did, however, get a power play.
And here's the best part, if that's the right choice of words.
Things only got weirder. So if you can make sense of what happened on Saturday night - sample: What were John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan going to do once they got into the Flames' dressing room? - please advise the NHL.
As it is, the league now has a toxic oil spill to clean up, and all the while the question hangs in the air.
Why? For what purpose? Is this the Canucks' new identity? And if it is, where do they go from here? Time, alas, didn't allow for a full postgame disclosure from Tortorella on what happened and why it happened in the Canucks 3-2 shootout victory.
The win snapped a nine-game winless streak for the Orcans.
It was hailed as a significant triumph by the players and their coach.
But none of that seemed terribly relevant in the game's aftermath. The players tried to make sense of it. The best they could do? In the Canucks' world, a larger justice was served by the win.
"I don't know what they're doing," said Zack Kassian. "Obviously, we're not going to put our best players against those guys. I think it's on their coach (Bob Hartley) personally.
"You can see them. We're lining up and they're trying to start something. Our team had to push back. If people are going to try to come into our building and try to establish something, we have no problem standing up to them."
That would extend right to Tortorella, who led a charge on the Flames' dressing room between the first and second period.
"You're going to have to ask them," said Daniel Sedin. "They put their lineup out there and that's what they wanted to do. It's tough to see, especially for the guys who got thrown out of the game. We wanted to win for the rest of them. That was good."
As for the rest, well, you can decide. Earlier on Saturday, we wrote a column on Alex Burrows' return to the lineup and the many positive things this meant to the Canucks.
Sadly, this storyline was rendered somewhat irrelevant about the time the Canucks and Flames decided to re-enact The Battle of Hastings. Afterwards, the Canucks pointed to the Flames' opening lineup, which featured McGrattan, noted faceoff man Westgarth (143 NHL games, 230 PIMs) at centre and three others to fill out the undercard, as a clear act of provocation.
"We're not going to back down." said Sestito.
That much is becoming clear. This was also the third time in their last four outings the Canucks have turned the game into a gong show. The game in L.A., seemed to serve a purpose. Anaheim two nights later seemed to be a reaction to a game that was out of hand.
As for this one, well, if the intent was to reinforce the message the Canucks won't be pushed around, consider it reinforced.
Hopefully for the last time.
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