Mar 15, 2011, 1:18 AM EDT
Idle Western Conference bubble teams were in an uncomfortable position tonight, as they were forced to root for their tormentors in Vancouver. That’s because the Canucks hosted – and defeated – the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames actually cheered out loud when they found out that Vancouver did it without going to overtime or a shootout to boot. With this win, the Canucks became the first team in the NHL to cross the 100-point barrier (101) during the 2010-11 season. No other team has more than the Philadelphia Flyers’ 91, so Vancouver is worthy of the title Prohibitive Stanley Cup Favorite.
They even managed to impress two special guests tonight, as beloved former Canucks captain Trevor Linden sat with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the game. (Linden and Harper can be seen in this post’s main image.)
Yet Mikko Koivu wouldn’t allow his team to roll over during his first game back from injury after missing 11 games with a broken finger. He scored a goal and set up an assist in a gutsy performance that ultimately fell short of earning the Wild a much-needed point or two. Minnesota might be getting healthy again with the return of Koivu along with Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner, but it could be too late.
While the Wild are getting slightly healthier, the Canucks must deal with yet another blow to their brittle defensive corps, even if a Sami Salo setback ranks as one of the most predictable moments in hockey. Salo injured his elbow after blocking a Kyle Brodziak slapper. It’s unclear how severe the injury is at this time.
Vancouver keeps winning game after game even though their spot in the playoffs is safer than any in the NHL. Minnesota needed this game badly, as they find themselves stuck in 11th place with 77 standings points. They remain behind the Ducks (79), Predators (80) and eighth-place Flames (81) for a playoff spot, so this loss must burn.
Yet the way this West race is playing out, anything can happen. Pretty much every night will include at least one important game, so stay tuned. It should be fun.
- WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins 0
- PHT Extra: What happens if the Caps miss the playoffs? 13
- Wings can’t afford regulation loss to Jackets 6
- ‘It’s obvious Tortorella can’t come back next year,’ writes Vancouver reporter 53
- NHL on NBCSN: Capitals fight to earn first win vs. Penguins in 26 months 11
- Vanquished: Isles stun Canucks with seven-goal third period 26
- Peverley asked to return to game following ‘cardiac event’ 23
- Peverley hospitalized, conscious after collapsing on Stars bench (Update) 19
- Sens’ Ceci won’t return after Weber’s shot lacerates his ear (Update) 8
- Gillis pleads his case: ‘We are enduring a challenging period’ 25
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack (71)
- Chiasson ‘shaken up’ by Peverley incident, won’t dress for Stars tonight (62)