Canucks survive with 4-1 win behind Bieksa's big night

Bieksa.jpgChicago Blackhawks 1, Vancouver Canucks 4

Blackhawks lead series 3-2

The Vancouver Canucks did a lot of talking leading up to Game 5, and some wondered if this was a team on the brink of falling apart. Their goaltender wasn’t focused, Shane O’Brien was the most outspoken player on the team and the coach routinely shot down anything the players had to say publicly.

You have to hand it to them though; they pulled it together to play one heck of a complete game to secure a big 4-1 victory to hold off elimination for at least one more game. While the Canucks will certainly need more from the Sedins if they hope to pull off a comeback in this series, there’s no overlooking the tremendous job that Christian Erhoff and Kevin Bieksa did tonight in leading their team to a win.

The Canucks entered the series already shorthanded on defense, and towards the end of the first period lost Sami Salo when he was hit with a puck. Erhoff and Bieksa instantly became the most important players on the ice for the Cancucks, and the two combined for three goals and four points. Bieksa led his team in ice time and had two goals and an assist himself, a great sign for the Canucks as it looks like Salo might be out for a significant amount of time.

Aside from the solid play of the defense, the key to the win was the newfound discipline of the Canucks. Looking like a completely different team than what we saw in games 3 and 4, the Canucks were in control emotionally for most of the game and never gave the Blackhawks a chance to get their agitating act going. Roberto Luongo did have a bit of a loose-lipped moment at the end of the 2nd period, but for the first time all series finally looked comfortable in net.

This was helped by a Chicago Blackhawks team that seemed ill prepared for taking on a good hockey team that had it’s back against the wall. Gone were the aggressive and confident Blackhawks that rattled off three straight wins; this was a team that just sleepwalked through the first 53 minutes of the game. If it weren’t for some timely Antti Niemi saves we’d have had another Game 1 debacle on our hands.

As for Salo, we’re still waiting on word as to the severity of his injury. At first, it seemed as though he was hit in the wrist or the abdomen. After watching the video replay, it could be much worse; it seems he could have been hit in the…ahem.. groin area with the puck. We’ll update when we know more.

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    Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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    Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

    McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

    With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

    1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
    2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
    3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
    4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

    As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

    Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

    The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

    Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

    Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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    Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

    Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

    McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

    Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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    The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

    They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

    Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

    The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

    The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

    Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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    Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

    Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

    via Getty Images

    The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.