GRABing A Playoff Spot
The Vancouver Canucks were the 9th team in the National Hockey League to stamp their ticket to the post season. Coming off one of their worst performances of the season, the Canucks managed to outlast the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 in the shootout. With the Calgary Flames defeating the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the evening, Vancouver entered this game needing to earn just one point in order to clinch their playoff spot.
After getting beat down last night, the Canucks had no time to dwell on their poor performance as they prepared to take on the Ducks, who are desperately holding on to their playoff aspirations. The game began slow in the first with neither team getting on the scoreboard. The game was a see saw affair as both team's traded goals and leads. The Ducks got the ice breaker when Saku Koivu backhanded a shot past Raycroft. Michael Grabner responded on a 2-1 going high glove on Curtis McElhinney. This was Grabner's first goal since being re-called by Vancouver after Samuelsson was injured. During his first stint this season he registered 2 goals and 3 assists in 9 games before breaking his ankle during a pre-game soccer warm up match.
Teemu Selanne would then restore Anaheim's lead when he scored on a 5-on-3 power play to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. The Canucks responded quickly in the final frame when Grabner scored back to back goals to give Vancouver their first lead of the game. This was the first hat trick of Grabner's career. Koivu would even things up on the power play before Jannik Hansen would once again put the Canucks up by one. With under two minutes to go and on the power play, the Ducks pulled McElhinney and got the tying marker from Selanne. The goal was Selanne's 602nd of his career moving him ahead of Jari Kurri for the lead in goals by a Finnish born player.
Nothing was settled in overtime despite two posts for the Canucks within a 30 second span on the power play. In the shootout, Corey Perry opened things up with a goal in the first attempt, only to be matched by Kyle Wellwood. Andrew Raycroft would rob Selanne on his attempt with a highlight reel save. Pavol Demitra put the Canucks up when he scored putting the pressure on Bobby Ryan. Ryan tried to go five hole but Raycroft managed to close the door and give the Canucks the win.
With the win and the Avalanche's regulation loss, the Canucks now need just one more point, or for the Avalanche to lose one point, to clinch the Northwest division title. This is huge for a team that was sitting near the bottom of the division earlier this season and fighting through a huge number of injuries. Vancouver's next opponent will be the Minnesota Wild while the Colorado Avalanche will face the San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks will have a great amount of influence on which Northwest division team will join them in the post season. Both the Flames and Avalanche sit tied in 8th with 89 points. The Avalanche get's the 8th spot by virtue of playing one fewer game. They also have one more win than the Flames do, which is the first tiebreaker when the season has completed. The Canucks will face both teams to next week to round out the season.