With the Canucks fighting for a playoff spot while the Los Angeles Kings are making a charge from 9th place, I am reminded of one of the most dramatic moments in Canucks regular season history back in the spring of 2001.
The 2000-01 season was a big one for the Vancouver Canucks. It was the first season in the post-Mark Messier era. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were in their rookie years. It was also Markus Naslund’s first year as team captain.
The Canucks hadn’t made the playoffs in five long years, but had some good young players that were just beginning to cut their teeth in the NHL.
To the surprise of most pundits, the Canucks were in 5th place in the Western Conference (8 points up on the 9th place Los Angeles Kings) midway through March and looked poised for a return to the playoffs.
But not so fast.
This was still Vancouver, so there was a goaltending controversy that blew up in their face. Before Miller-Lack and Luongo-Schneider, there was Potvin-Essensa.
Starting goalie Felix Potvin had a dreadful year and was essentially run out of town by Canucks fans, who clamoured for “Back-up Bob” Essensa. Potvin was traded to the struggling LA Kings in February and he immediately vaulted them into a playoff spot, ahead of the Canucks.
With 11 games remaining in the regular season, Markus Naslund broke his leg and was lost for the season. Four games later, they lost their #1 centre Andrew Cassels to a season-ending injury. Without their top two scorers, the Canucks began to free-fall.
The Canucks went 1-5-3 after losing their captain and were tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the 8th and final playoff spot on April 5th. With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Canucks were desperate for a win that would clinch a playoff spot.
With Felix Potvin making his return to Vancouver, the game went into overtime.
With Naslund and Cassels out, who would be the hero? Todd Bertuzzi? Brendan Morrison?? Drake Berehowsky???
Todd Bertuzzi sent a pass to 22-year-old Harold Druken, who beat Kings defenceman Mathieu Schneider to the front of the net and shot the puck just under the crossbar, past Felix Potvin. The Canucks won 3-2 in overtime.
The Canucks were going back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
The goal was Harold Druken’s 22nd goal of his career. He would only go on to score just 27 in the NHL. I think it’s safe to say that this was the biggest.