Tuesday night was opening night for the new Todd Bertuzzi, or at least the improved Bertuzzi. Vancouver’s power forward found the form that has been missing for most of the season thus far, a crashing more physical game and one that found him to be the key part of the Canucks success in Manhattan.
On a day when the Canucks learned that their number one goaltender was gone for the season, they pulled together on the east coast and took a win away from Madison Square Garden. Alex Auld, who now suddenly finds himself Marc Crawford’s go to guy, had a decent night in the nets as his defence helped keep the Ranger snipers at bay for most of the night.
In the Ranger end of the rink, the Canucks had quite a few chances to increase on the 3-2 final score. As they controlled a fair amount of play Tuesday night with many contributors to the attack, the Sedins continued to find more opportunities to get on the board, with Daniel once again scoring with the Canucks second goal of the game.
Bertuzzi got the Canucks on the board in the first on a dandy pass from Ed Jovanovski, taking the puck across the blue line Bertuzzi wired a shot past Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. From there he spent the end of the second and better part of the third period in the penalty box, after coming to the aid of Marcus Naslund, Bertuzzi found himself penalized for 17 minutes after a melee with Ryan Hollweg.
From that point the night belonged to Matt Cooke, who was returning to action for the first time since suffering a broken jaw seventeen games ago. Cooke put the game away with a tie breaking goal with four and a half minutes left in the game.
Cooke had put on a fairly gritty performance for most of the game, unafraid to take the body and consistent on the attack.
For Coach Marc Crawford the night must have been one that gave him a feeling of success. His new number one goaltender stood the test of fire in the Garden, his power forward had probably his best game of the year despite spending a good portion of the game as an observer, his play Tuesday should help to quiet down any rumours of his imminent trade from the Canucks. Just as rewarding for Crawford on Tuesday was the inspired play of the player with the most heart on the night, as Matt Cooke returned to the lineup and had an immediate effect on the Canucks fortunes.
His team has slain two of the East’s power squads in less than one week! Perhaps playing the elite squads is something that the Canucks need more of, as they seem to bring their best game to the rink when the competition is cruising the top of their divisions. And the good news for Crawford is the big teams keep on coming on, from Broadway it’s on to Broad Street and a Thursday night match with the Flyers. Then it's back home to GM Place and the always tough Edmonton Oilers.
It’s another couple of tests for a team that seems to enjoy taking the exams all of a sudden.