Canucks slip past Sabres 3-2
“Keep your stick on the ice and expect the unexpected,” Lukowich said.
That’s exactly what they delivered 5:21 into the third period of Vancouver’s 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
Daniel Sedin(notes) took a pass from his brother and cut into the slot, drawing both the defense and goalie Ryan Miller(notes) with him before a blind between-the-legs drop pass to a pinching Lukowich.
Lukowich, who was in the American Hockey League until recently because of the Canucks’ salary cap issues and defensive depth to start the season, quickly snapped it past the glove of Miller for his first goal since Nov. 5, 2007.
“I kind of remembered a goal about a week ago where they did the same thing, so I just put my stick down and screamed like crazy and he basically laid it out for me,” Lukowich said. “Just lean on it and aim for the back of the net.”
The Canucks have won two straight with three of their top four defensemen injured, relying on Lukowich, Aaron Rome(notes), who has been a healthy scratch 22 times this season, and Nolan Baumgartner(notes), who hadn’t played in the NHL for three seasons before Saturday, for key minutes.
Few expected them to also score key goals.
“I mean, Lukowich going up in the play there?” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “As long as it works. As long as it works. It was an unbelievable play. We’re all going, ‘Whoa!”’
The Sabres were also expressing plenty of emotion on their bench after a tying short-handed goal was called back late in the second period. After Ryan Kesler’s(notes) power-play shot hit off the crossbar, Buffalo broke out on an odd-man rush and Craig Rivet’s(notes) shot went in off the hand of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff(notes).
But that didn’t change Sabres coach Lindy Ruff’s opinion of the call.
“I don’t like it obviously, said Ruff, who was screaming at the officials after the call. “If you’re going to call that you better call about 75 crosschecks in the game around the front of the net.”
Ruff was less impressed his team gave up the lead four minutes after Vanek tied it, especially against the Sedins.
“When you give the Sedins a breakaway from your own blue line when your focus was not to give them anything, I don’t think you deserve to win a game,” Ruff said. “Some of it may be fatigue.”
Miller made 22 saves, including Kesler’s early breakaway, as the Northeast Division-leading Sabres dropped the final four games of a season-long seven-game road trip.
Making their first visit in four years and looking for their first win in Vancouver since 1999, Buffalo opened the scoring on Adam Mair’s(notes) first goal of the season early in the second period. But Samuelsson tied it five minutes later and Henrik Sedin scored on a breakaway 3:20 after that.
Sent in by Alex Burrows(notes), Sedin faked to his backhand to draw Miller to his left, stopped and reached back around to tuck it in on the forehand. The assist extended Burrows’ point streak to 12 games (13 goals, six assists) as the Canucks’ top line combined for five points—giving them 14 the past two games— and Henrik Sedin increased his league-leading point total to 76.
“Their chemistry is as good as any chemistry as any two guys in the league,” Ruff said of the Sedins. “They can put pucks over sticks, through legs, saucer pucks backhand, forehand.”
Even right onto the stick of a low-scoring defenseman.
“Right now I don’t know if there is a better line in the game,” Lukowich said.
^Notes: Only Buffalo’s Tim Connolly(notes) has a longer active NHL streak than Burrows after extending his to 16 games (seven goals and 18 assists) with an assist on Vanek’s goal. … Buffalo RW Drew Stafford(notes) was a late scratch with the flu. Canucks D Willie Mitchell(notes) missed a fourth straight game as coach Alain Vigneault confirmed before the game he suffered a concussion after being hit head-first into the boards by Evgeni Malkin(notes) late in a 6-2 win over the Penguins on Jan. 16. He is listed day to day, but hasn’t resumed skating. Sami Salo(notes) (groin) is also day to day, while Kevin Bieksa(notes) (ankle surgery) is out indefinitely.