Game 50: Chicago @ Vancouver (31-15-4)

Chicago (OTL) @ Vancouver (W) Final Score: 3-2 [OT]

Question the status of their rivalry all you want; the Canucks and Blackhawks still provide some of the most entertaining hockey in the league. Tuesday night was no different as the Canucks ended up the eventual winners, topping Chicago 3-2 in overtime.

Ryan Kesler started the scoring early in the first period before Jamal Mayers tied up the game later that period. After outshooting the Canucks in the second period, the Blackhawks went ahead early into the third when a Viktor Stalberg shot deflected off Alexander Edler past Cory Schneider. Three minutes later though, Cody Hodgson would tie the game up and Daniel Sedin would eventually seal the win in overtime, pushing the Canucks to within three points of first place Detroit.

For Daniel, his overtime goal was the 10th he’s scored for the Canucks, which puts him first all time in the franchise, passing Brendan Morrison.

Fresh off the All-Star break, there were no signs of rust from either team with an electric pace to the game right off the bat. Early pressure from the Canucks, most notably from the second line of Kesler, Chris Higgins, and David Booth eventually resulted in a turnover by Chicago’s top line. Kesler, who received the puck from Alex Edler, promptly put the puck over Corey Crawford’s left shoulder to give Vancouver the lead four minutes into the game.

The Canucks would continue to create scoring opportunities until their top line got hemmed into their own zone by Chicago’s third line. Some good work along the boards by Chicago defenseman Steve Montador saw the puck pop out in front of the net to Jamal Mayers, who whiffed his first attempt but kept possession and slotted home on his second try.

Both teams would continue to threaten at both ends of the ice, Booth and Burrows narrowly missing, while Stalberg was stymied by Schneider multiple times.

Though the second period didn’t yield and goals, it will be remembered for one save in particular. Chicago seemed to find an extra gear during the middle frame and looked to benefit when Schneider misplayed the puck behind his own net. The puck fell kindly to ex-Canuck Brendan Morrison who had a gaping net to shoot at, however Schneider, scrambling back to his crease, was able to lift his arm up and block the puck with his elbow. Despite the Blackhawks outshooting Vancouver 15-6, Schneider would foil the assault, stopping everything that came his way.

In the third however Chicago would eventually breakthrough. A stellar game from Stalberg was finally rewarded when his shot ricocheted off of Edler’s leg past Schneider just one minute into the last period. With all the momentum that the Blackhawks had built from the start of the third period, a Canucks loss looked to be in writing. Cue Cody Hodgson. A Dan Hamhuis backhand pass from his own zone found Hodgson near the Chicago blue line and from there he picked his spot and fired it top shelf on Crawford’s glove side.

After that, the game slowed down, both teams seeming reluctant to give up the next goal. Overtime however was a different story as the things really opened up with some added controversy at both ends. The Blackhawks thought they had an argument for a penalty shot when Stalberg was slashed by Hamhuis on a clean breakaway while the Canucks thought Brent Seabrook should have been called for boarding. In the end, the Sedins, who had been rather quiet the whole game, found themselves in the midst of their trademark cycle game; with Henrik parked behind the net and Daniel skating towards the crease, fans prepared themselves for an all too familiar scene and weren’t denied when Daniel snuck the puck past Crawford.

Both goalies were excellent on the night making some highlight-worthy key stops. Crawford finished with 30 saves on 33 shots while Schneider was steady, keeping out 37 of 39 Chicago shots.

Notes: D Nik Hjalmarsson left the ice for an extended amount of time in the first period after he took a Sami Salo shot to the leg. He later returned and played 19:30; D Duncan Keith was on the ice for 30:22, the fourth time this season he’s logged at least 30 minutes in a game; the Canucks have now gone 6 straight periods against the Blackhawks without receiving a powerplay; Jonathan Toews and Patrick Shark both returned from injury tonight; Toews, who missed most of January with a wrist injury, went 6/17 in the faceoff circle; going into the game, Chicago was ranked 3rd with a 52% in faceoffs while the Canucks were tied for fourth with a 51.9% rating. Vancouver ended up winning 42/62 faceoffs in the game.