Sunday, April 18, 2004

Canucks dodge bullet in Cowtown

By rights this game should never have turned into the Overtime Classic that it became. The Canucks were cooled off and in the showers by the end of the second period as they had a two goal lead heading into the third period. The only problem was nobody told the Flames that the game was over. Calgary launched one of the greatest comebacks seen in the NHL in a long time, as they capitalized on sloppy defensive work in the Vancouver end of the rink, and got a few breaks on deflections to claw their way back into a four all tie at the end of regulation time.

With no particular rhyme or reason to the Canuck play in the first ten minutes of the third, the Flames were allowed to get back into the game. It would prove to be a mistake, which came dangerously close to eliminating the Canucks from further playoff action this year. Unable to clear the front of the Canuck net, Alex Auld was left to fend for himself on far too many occasions in regulation time as Martin Gelinas amongst others had ample opportunity to send the Saddledome crowd into rapture. But the Canucks finally settled down again and began to take back some of the play. But make no doubt about it, the third period had them on their knees hoping against hope that a stray shot or pass didn’t make it behind Auld.

As the first overtime period began it was a carry over of much of the play of the last five games, heavy hits, long leading passes just missing and fast paced end to end rushes. In a game that featured 1 goal in the first period, 5 goals in the second and 2 goals in the third, none would be scored in the first or the second overtime period.

The winning marker came at the 112th minute of play as Brendan Morrison protected the puck from one side of the boards to the other and then to the front of the net, putting the winning marker behind Miikka Kirprusoff sending both teams back to Vancouver for game seven on Monday night.

Saturday night’s game was the longest OT game in Canuck history, and the result was what they needed to keep alive their plans for a challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Flames who never seem to say die, will have to regroup after a heartbreaking loss such as this, they had a number of chances in the two OT periods to score, but couldn’t’ seem to get the puck past Auld who after that shaky finish to the third, managed to settle down and close the door the rest of the way. His counterpart in the Calgary net Kiprusoff equal to the task, holding wave after wave of Canuck shooters to bad angles and low risk shots.

While this series never needed any hype, Monday’s game is anticipated as yet another classic in the waiting. The Flames determined ability to never give up, against the Canucks fighting for their playoff lives. Monday should be the biggest ratings bonanza for the CBC this year so far, with Montreal/Boston as the opening act, the Flames and Canucks should provide an amazing grande finale to the CBC twin bill on Monday.

Hockey fans can only hope they get the same kind of action that periods 4, 5 and the start of six provided on Saturday night.

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